Actions

Work Header

Once Upon Another Time

Chapter Text

When they finally realized their mistake, it was too late. Ward was gone. Handed over to his brother in exchange for political support which they now knew they were never going to receive.

“What have we done?” a doleful Skye asked to the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Coulson did not respond. All he could do was look at the young agent with sorrowful look before he closed his eyes and looked away.

Feeling tears starting to form behind her own eyes, Skye needed to leave and be alone. Without another word, she turned and left Coulson's office, leaving the man behind to deal with fact he had been the one who singed Ward's dearth warrant.

Wrapping her arms around herself, Skye hurried down the Playground’s halls, looking for somewhere she could hide herself away. Along the way she passed the lounge where Simmons, Trip, Hunter and Bobbi had gathered. All but Simmons held a bottle of beer in their hand while Simmons clung onto a cup of tea. Each person had a forlorn look on their face.

“I...I told him I would kill him,” the Simmons quietly murmured before she dropped her cup. She turned and buried her face in the crook of Hunter’s neck, much to his surprise.

The ex-mercenary awkward wrapped his arms around the distraught scientist for comfort while Bobbi retrieved a towel to clean up the spilled tea. Trip meanwhile picked up the broken pieces of the tea cup and took them over to the trash where he threw them into the trash can with for more force then needed.

Skye passed the gym where she saw May furiously taking her aggression out on a heavily abused punching bag. Then she came to the motor pool and came upon Mack holding a sobbing Fitz in his embrace. The young engineer had his face buried in the taller man's chest and was shaking as his tears stained Mack's plaid shirt.

“It's alright, Turbo. Just let it out,” Mack soothed as he rubbed Fitz's back.

Turning, Skye let her feet lead her to the hanger and soon she found herself going up the ramp of the Bus. She stood there in the cargo bay, memories of long past training sessions came back, making her head up the spiral staircase and into the lounge. Skye looked over to the spot where the two of them had played Battleships and other games, back when things had seemed so simple. Skye turned and left the lounge, heading in the direction of the cabins but when she finally came to stop, the young hacker found herself not outside her cabin but Wards.

With a trembling hand, Skye turned the knob and entered.

Skye stopped and looked around the cabin. A fine layer of dust covered every surface. Just about everything was in the exact same place Ward had left them in. No one had entered the cabin since they had discovered Ward's ties to HYDRA. Even though there was the possibility Ward could have hidden valuable information in his room, no one dared to enter it, not even May. They left the room alone, not even bothering to lock it. Their painful memories were enough to keep them away from the room.

With hesitant steps, Skye made her way over to still neatly made bed and sat down, causing dust to float up into the air. She looked around the small cabin that was frozen in time. It was like the cabin was a mausoleum that held the sad ghosts of the past. A past where they were tracking down Centipede. A past where they had no secrets from each other. A past where they were a team. A past where they were a family.

As she finished her scan of the room, Skye’s eyes fell upon something she thought she would never see again. It was Ward's beloved leather jacket. Skye thought he had taken it when they had left Providence but there it was, hanging on the back of the desk chair. Before she knew it, Skye was reaching over and taking the jacket off the chair.

Skye let her fingers trace the leather, her finger tips making trails in the dust that had gathered over the past six months. Then without thinking, she brought the jacket up to her nose and inhaled. It stilled smelled like him, a mixture of Old Spice, black coffee, pine and what Skye could only descried as Ward.

The tears behind her eyes were starting to prickle behind her eyes but Skye managed to keep them from falling as she forced her eyes closed. Images of the past played across her mind. Everything made sense back then. She had been his rookie. He had been her robot.

Skye felt something wet trail down her cheek. Opening her eyes and bring her hand to her face, the young agent realized she was crying. Finally, Skye let go of and let her emotions take over. The tears came freely and soon she heard the sad sobs that escaped from her mouth as she weep. Silently, Skye admitted to herself the truth she had done all to ignore and forget.

“I love you, Ward,” Skye spoke to the empty room, her voice filled with raw emotion.

As her tears fell, Skye buried her face in Ward's jack and maneuvered herself on the bed so that she was lying in a fetal position. She stayed in Ward's old room for several hours, eventually crying herself asleep. When she awoke hours later, Ward's lingering scent filled her nose and for a moment, Skye thought he was lying there next to her. But when she opened her eyes, she realized she was alone and her memories soon flooded back. Ward was gone, never to return. The tears and the hurt came back to Skye all too easily.

Chapter Text

“Just got word from Trip, they'll be landing in five,” Agent May said as she entered the director's office.

Coulson looked up from the stacks of old S.S.R. files he and Simmons had been looking through. This latest mission involved a Ten Rings cell, which they found an oddly refreshing change from HYDRA. The cell was trying to purchase stolen Hammer Industries tech from a dealer in Rio de Janeiro. Trip, Skye, Bobbi and Hunter had been sent to stop the sale. “Good. Did they experience any trouble?”

“No more than usual when dealing with a bunch of fanatic terrorists,” the Specialist answered. “He did say that Morse did sustain a nasty knife wound”

“I'll go get things ready,” Simmons said as she got up from her chair. “Anyone else hurt?”

“Just Morse. Everyone else came out as usual.”

“I'll go get the bandages ready,” Simmons sighed as she left office. “And the ice packs.”

May took the empty seat and eyed the file stacks. “Any luck?”

“No but we've only made our way through a fourth of them. I'm sure one of these files has something on the Obelisk and what HYDRA was trying to do with it back then.”

“Maybe the files were destroyed at some point or maybe HYDRA stole then when they infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D.”

Phil shook his head. “No. These are the original S.S.R. files. Since there's nothing about the Obelisk in the Tool Box, I can only assume Fury felt the info as too dangerous to add just in case the box fell into the wrong hands. The answer is somewhere in one of these files. We'll find it, eventually.”

May pursed her lips together and nodded. Personally she had doubts that they would fine any concrete answerer to why HYDRA was suddenly interested in the Obelisk after so many years in those old files. They could have taken it any time before the Uprising and no one would have known about it. But that line of thinking just brought up the question why didn't HYDRA take the Obelisk then and right now they had other matters to attend to. “The jet should be arriving any minuet. You ready to head down?”

“Yes,” Coulson answered as he stood up. As he buttoned up his suite he looked to May and causally asked, “Have either Morse or Mackenzie contacted Gonzales lately?”

“No.”

Phil nodded as finished the last button and they made their way towards the hanger.

The Quinjet had already landed by the time Coulson and May walked into the base's hanger and the team was slowly making their way down the ramp. Trip and Skye were the first to exit followed by Hunter who was helping Bobbi down the ramp. It was not hard to miss the bloodstained clothe wrapped around her lower thigh. The other three agents sported various cuts and bruises

“Welcome back. I'm glad to see you all made it back in one piece,” Coulson said.

“Barely,” Skye replied, “but we to stopped the sale and destroyed the dealer's warehouse where he kept his stockpiles.”

“And the dealer?”

“Managed to escape,” Trip sighed.

“So did the Ten Rings leader and few of his goons,” Bobbi added. “We got most of them though.”

“I hate to interrupt the tea party but do mind of we move it along?” Hunter asked as he readjusted his hold on his ex-wife. “She-Beast here is starting to get a little bit heavy.”

Agent Morse turned her head and cocked an eyebrow at her ex-husband. “You do know in this position I can easily dislocate your shoulder, break your arm and fracture both your kneecaps?”

“Go on to the infirmary,” May instructed. “Simmons is ready for you.”

The agents acknowledged the order and headed to the infirmary so they could be thoroughly checked over by Simmons. May went along and helped Hunter support Bobbi. As he watched his agents, Coulson allowed himself a small smile.

'Things are finally getting back to normal,' the Director thought to himself.

-----)AoS(-----

“Phil, hold up.”

Coulson turned and saw May coming down the hall towards him. They had just finished the post-mission debriefing. Despite the dealer and cell leader getting away, the mission had been a success. Mack and Fitz took the opportunity to announce they were working on a new project of adapting the cloaking tech from the Bus for the D.W.A.R.F.s. which sounded promising. Once the meeting was over, the team went to get ready for supper while May went after the Director so she could ask him about something that had been on her mind lately.

“Yes, Agent May?”

“I need to ask you something.”

“What is it?” Coulson asked as they made their way to his office.

“Have you heard anything from Senator Ward?”

Three weeks had gone by since they handed Grant over to his brother and Coulson had not had any further communication with Christian Ward. The last communication they had received was a short message stating that the transport had gone without incident and that Grant was now in custody. When Coulson relayed the info to the team, everyone seemed to relax. Grant would now face justice and received the proper punishment for his crimes. At first May had been happy to hear this news but now, she had this nagging feeling something was off.

“No,” Phil replied. “Why the interest?”

“Don't you find it a little bit more then odd?” May asked.

“What do you mean?” Phil asked.

“The fact Ward didn't try to escape during the transfer,” May clarified. “Something just doesn’t add up. We both know that Ward would realize that the transfer would be the optimal time to escape. We both know he had the skills to break out. Yet according to the guards, all Ward did was sit there quietly, not moving at all.”

Coulson nodded in agreement. He had had the same thoughts as well. Ward had the abilities to escape and he still had secret drop boxes scattered around the world to supply him with money and the resources to assume a new identity. He could have even gone and rejoined HYDRA. “That's true but who the hell knows how Ward's mind works. He might have finally realized he could not squirm his way out of this.”

May shook her head. “That doesn’t sound like Ward, even if he isn't the Ward we thought we knew. We both know that, Phil.”

“Maybe but it's over and done with,” Coulson said coming to a stop in the middle in the hall. May stopped and looked at him. “It's over, May. Ward is gone and we don't have to worry about him anymore.”

The senior agent pursed her lips together into a thin line. Her personal feelings of Ward's betrayal aside, May just could not shake the feeling of uneasiness she had. She had been an agent far too long to ignore such feelings but it was clear that Phil considered the matter closed. “Alright,” she said.

Neither one spoke till they were back in Coulson's office were the topic of conversation was the two undercover agents on the team. Later, the team had the opportunity to enjoy a pleasant dinner together and settled down to watch a movie together. It was Bobbi's turn to pick and she selected The Great Race. Not everyone had been thrilled about the choice but the great pie fight scene had everyone laughing

When the movie had finished, the team sad their good-nights and headed to bed. Each one expected to enjoy a pleasant night's sleep. They were wrong.

-----)AoS(-----

“I trust your new accommodations meet your standards” Doctor List asked the hologram of Daniel Whitehall. List was currently on his personal Echidna Capital Management jet heading to Johannesburg. Strucker had sent him to meet with a vibranium dealer to see about obtaining a supply of the rear metal for their projects in Sokovia.

“That and more,” Whitehall answered. “I was disappointed to lose the Dover facility then having to make do with that warehouse but this more than makes up for it. But now that we have the proper facilities to carry on with our work with the Obelisk. I'm confident I'll be able to learn all of its secrets.”

“Baron Strucker will be pleased to hear that. In the meantime, have you had any more complications from S.H.I.E.L.D?”

Whitehall shook his head, which caused the hologram to flicker slightly. “None but they're still out there. That business in Rio de Janeiro was undoubtedly them.”

“True,” List said with a sigh, “It had been hoped that after the affairs at the United Nations and Brussels would have sealed S.H.I.E.L.D.'s fate but our sources reported that only Scarlotti and his team had been taken into custody. But thanks to the information you've recently supplied us, HYDRA will be able to deliver another serious blow to S.H.I.E.L.D.

“I take it the Cardinal is ready for his next mission?”

“Oh yes,” List said with a chuckle. “He's looking forward to it”

Whitehall smiled. “It may not be Phil Coulson and his team but S.H.I.E.L.D. is S.H.I.E.L.D.”

Chapter Text

Jemma had sitting under a tree reading a book when she heard Tommy yell out. Without hesitation, she jumped up and ran into the woods behind their family's cabin. She followed Tommy’s' frightened cries to the old well where she saw Christian holding their younger brother over the edge.

“Let me go, Christian,” Thomas pleaded as he struggled to escape his brother's hold. “I'll tell mom!”

“Think being her favorite is going to make either her or father believe you? Well it won't,” Christian mocked as he leaned Thomas closer over the edge. “Let's see if you still can't swim.”

Jemma watched in horror as Christian, in slow motion, shoved Thomas over the edge and down into the well.

“No!” Jemma yelled as ran to the well and shoved Christian out of the way. “Tommy!”

“Jemma! Help me!” Tommy cried out as she struggled to stay above the water.

Frantically, she looked around and saw the rope lying on the ground. She had picked it up and was about to throw it to Thomas when Christian tackled her to the ground and that was when Jemma felt the tip of a screwdriver against her throat.

“You're such a weakling,” Christian leered as he pressed the screwdriver down harder. “You think you'll always be there to save him? Well newsflash little sis, you won't. You're nothing but an embarrassment to our family. Mother can't stand the sight of you half the time and father considers you a miserable failure.”

Christian suddenly got up and pulled Jemma off the ground. Jemma had barely gotten her balance when her older brother pulled her back to the well. They saw Tommy still doing his best to stay above the water and he yelled again for Jemma to help.

“You're going to stand here and watch,” Christian instructed. “You'll watch and do nothing.”

“But he'll drown,” Jemma protested. “Please, Christian, I'm begging you. Let me-” Jemma's words where cut off when Christian slapped her against the back of her head.

“If you move even an inch, I'll throw you down there too.”

Jemma was helpless as Christian garbed her by the back of the neck and forced her to watch as Tommy struggled to survive deep down in the well. As Christian’s grip tightened Jemma's vision slowly darkened until all she saw was darkness.

-----)AoS(-----

Trip sat around his small campfire, poking the burning logs with a stick. Buddy was at his side, gnawing on a bone from a deer Trip had shoot a few days ago. The weather was starting to turn and it would not be long before the first snow. He was not worried, they had shelter and Trip knew which cabins he could get into to steal supplies.

“What is?” Trip asked when he saw Buddy's head snap up.

Trip stood and looked around, trying to see what it was that gotten Buddy's attention. Suddenly he felt a vice grip on his wrist and his arm was pulled behind his back that he felt his shoulder dislocate. He had barley let out a scream before he was shoved to the ground.

“That was pathetic,” a voice called out.

Despite the pain he felt, Trip managed to lift his head up slight and open his eyes. The first thing he saw were black boots which then delivered a swift kick to his stomach.

“I could have killed you ten different ways by now,” the cold voice mocked as Trip received another kick to the stomach.

Curled up into a fetal position, suffering pain from his dislocated shoulder and kicks to the stomach and tears starting to sting his eyes, Trip gathered what strength he could and pushed himself up into a sitting position. After a moment, he was able to force his eyes open.

“J-John?” Trip said once his vision focused. John Garrett, dressed all in black, stood towering over Trip. His arms were crossed and he was looking that the sixteen year old with a look of disappoint and disgust.

“Pathetic,” Garrett sneered. “You won't last a minuet in S.H.I.E.L.D. if you can't tell when someone's sneaking up on you. I'll be back tomorrow.” With that, Garrett turned and walked away.

Trip remained on the ground, tears falling down his cheeks. Buddy came over and laid his head in Trip's lap, trying to provide comfort his friend but it was not working. He had disappointed John. John was teaching him how to be a man and yet he had failed him. That feeling of failure was worse than the pain caused by his shoulder.

Trip buried his face in Buddy’s fur trying to ignore the pain. He clenched his eyes as the pain started to grow in intensity. When he finally managed to pull his face away from Buddy and open his eyes, he saw that the sun was starting to start. Then he saw that his fire was almost out. Slowly, he tried to stand but his legs gave out and he found himself on the ground again.

As twilight fell and his fire had been reduced to just a few dying embers, Trip felt his eyes starting to close. Buddy came over and started to lick his face, encouraging him to get up. Try as he might, Trip could not find the strength to move. The last thing he was aware of was the darkness slowly taking hold of him.

-----)AoS(-----

May smiled. She had taken down their target, a former top KGB agent who had been selling his services to various criminal organizations and individuals since the Cold War ended. She and Garrett tracked him to Sydney and cornered him in a warehouse on the docks. A fight broke out and May found herself aiming to the agent while he fought with John. She missed the first time but managed to put a bullet right between his eyes the second time.

“What the fuck did you do?” John shouted at her before he dropped to the ground to see if the target was still alive. “Dammit.”

“What's wrong John?” May asked in confusion. “I had the shot so I took it.”

“You weren't supposed to take him out,” John growled he stood.

May furrowed her brow as she looked at her SO. Usually John was not so particular about whether a target was killed or not. “But our orders were to bring him in dead or alive. I know you wanted him alive but we completed the mission-”

“Screw the mission,” Garrett snapped at her. “We weren't supposed to kill him. Pierce wanted me to recruit him for HYDRA, but you've gone and fucked us up royal!”

Melinda stood there as Garrett started to run his forehead in frustration. She could not believe he was trying to blame her for not allowing their target to live. “How the hell was I supposes to know that? You never told me not to kill him and you never told me what our apparent true orders were. I didn't fuck up, John, you did!”

The minuet the words came out of her mouth, May realized she had fucked up because John started to stalk right towards. Before she could take a step back, John was there and had her wrist in his vice-like grip.

“You should know how this works,” he snarled as he tightened his gripe. “I get us assigned to missions that may pose a threat to HYDRA's operations and if possible, recruit operatives who have skills we could use.”

“Please, John, I'm sorry,” May pleaded as his hold was staring to hurt. She was sure he was going to leave a bruise.

“You’re damn right you're sorry,” Garrett replied as he released his hold on her. He then tapped the comm in his ear. “This is Garrett. Target is down. Repeat, the target is down.”

May just stood there as John relayed their status to the local S.H.I.E.L.D. office. Looking down at her wrist, she saw that an ugly black and blue mark was already starting to form. Suddenly, she heard a gun go off and there was a searing pain in her shoulder as she crumpled to the ground. As she cried out in pain, May looked up and saw John standing over her putting his firearm back in its holster.

“Have to have an excuse for taking the target out,” Garrett said causally as he turned and walked away.

As the blood started to soak threw her shirt, May tried to push herself up but she could not find the strength. All she managed to do was prop herself up against the wall. John paid her no attention as she pressed her hand against her wound, trying to stop the flow of blood. She knew she had failed him and she would accept her punishment. After all, she deserved it.

Everything started to grow hazy and dark. May tried to will herself to stay awake but she could feel her eyelids starting to grow heavy and drop. Finally, she allowed the darkness to overtake her.

Chapter Text

Skye could remember Garrett saying love was a weakness. Love was a distraction that made you hesitant to act, held you back from making the tough choices and got you killed. The only emotional connections she was to form were the ones that would solidify her position on the team as the honest Specialist they all thought she was. But once she pulled back that van door and saw Grant sitting there, looking straight at him with those dark brown eyes, Skye realized she had failed.

Over the course of the following months, Skye fell more in love with Grant. Then he was shot and after she came to brink of losing him, Skye finally admitted she truly loved Grant Ward. But then HYDRA came out of the shadows and everything came crashing down.

“Please, Grant, you gotta understand-”

“Understand what?” Grant snapped. “You're a freakin' Nazi!”

After the battle at Cyberteck, John was dead and she received a broken larynx and nails in her feet. It was long before she was moved into Vault D and the interrogation sessions started. Coulson and May were there for everyone. Her former teammates looked at her in disgust and hatred in their eyes. She tried to kill herself but failed. Finally, she told the Director the only one she would talk to was Grant. The director left without a word.

Then one day, the barrier came down and there was Grant, holding a folder in his hands. He had a beard now. Part of her thought it only made him look even more ruggedly handsome but another part thought it was wrong for him and hoped he shaved it off. Despite the emotionless expression he wore, Skye could see the anger and disgust in his once joy filled eyes.

“Grant-”

“Tell me about HYDRA.”

She did and each time he came, Skye tied to explain herself to him. About her family, being sent to that Juvenal center, how Garrett had found her and why she followed him but the ex-hacker would not hear any of it.

“I already know what you are,” he told her.

“Please, Grant. I'm not the bad guy here.”

“You're a monster.”

Skye could feel her heart breaking all over again. “Grant...”

“You should have ran faster,” Grant replied before reactivating the barrier.

Skye just stood there. From his venomous tone, Skye realized she had truly lost Grant forever. Her only light was gone forever, leaving her all alone in the darkness.

-----)AoS(-----

“I know you care about us Fitz.”

And he did. Fitz had never forgot he wrenching feeling in his stomach as he pressed the release button or the struggle to hold back tears as he heard their yells as the pod dropped.

Dropping Ward and Simmons out of Bus had not been his plan but there had been no time to think of anything else. John wanted them dead and being dropped into the ocean was a far better fate the receiving a bullet to the skull or worse, having Deathlok crush it. The pod was designed to float and once it landed in the water, the homing beacon would activate. All they would need to do then was wait.

"I thought you cared about us, Fitz!”

Ward's words echo in his mind as he stared at the floor. Skye had informed him that the two scientists had survived the drop but she offered no further details about them. That caused a sinking feeling in the pit of Fitz's stomach. He wanted so badly to know they were alright but he finally resigned himself that he would never see Ward or Simmons again.

Then the barrier came down and there stood Ward on the other side. At first, Fitz was shocked to see the young engineer but then, he realized that he had the chance to explain his actions to Ward and hopefully make him understand that all he wanted was to protect him and Simmons.

But he never got the chance. It soon became apparent that something had happened to Ward. He seemed to be struggling with actions and was far too fidgety. His once innocent and energized eyes looked empty. Then there was his voice. It was no longer confident and fluid but stammered and hitching.

Then Ward started to tell him about how the pod sank, his coma and his struggles trying to accomplish even the smallest of task.

“I - I have trouble with words, so it might be best I show you.”

“Show me what?”

“Hypoxia, that's what you did to me,” Wars answered as he tapped the control pad in his hand.

Fitz started to have trouble breathing and he realized that Ward had cut off the air supply to his cell. As he struggled to breath, Ward continued to tell how the team treated him differently now and how he felt isolated and alone. Despite his dwindling air supply Fitz tried to explain his actions but Ward would not hear of it. Instead, his words just made the engineer more emotionally upset.

Had the subject of Donnie Gill been brought up, Fitz was sure he would have died. Once he managed to convince Ward that Skye was in danger, the air supply was turned back on. As Ward hurried to go warn the rest of the team, Fitz slumped down the wall of his cell to the floor. He breathing was hard and heavy but that was not the pain that was hurting him the most.

'What had he done?' Fitz thought as he felt his eyes tear-up.

He thought he was saving Ward and Simmons from a horrible death but instead he almost cost them their lives. Because of him, Ward had revived irreversible brain damage and was no longer treated by the rest of the team as the valuable engineer he had been. It was not long before Fitz felt the wet tears making their way down his cheeks.

He truly was a monster. Skye had been right about him. All he caused was pain and suffering. And now Ward was forever to suffer the consequences of his actions. Fitz huddled over as his emotions overcame him. He did not mean to hurt the engineer who he come to think of as a little brother. Like Tommy, all he wanted to do was protect him but just like Tommy, he had failed.

The combination of trying to recover from being suffocated along with his emotional downward spiral soon became too much for Fitz's body to handle. Everything started to get dark and Fitz could feel himself slipping away into unconscious.

“Ward...I'm sorry,” Fitz managed to mummer as the darkness overtook him.

-----)AoS(-----

Philip Coulson had quit possibly been the best agent to graduate S.H.I.E.L.D. Academy since the legendary Melinda May. Hand to hand combat, stealth, infiltration, espionage and demolitions, he received top marks in all. He excelled at marksmanship, multilingualism and mastered both mental and physical interrogation techniques. To many, Coulson was the poster boy for what the ideal S.H.I.E.L.D. agent was.

And that's how he needed to be seen. Garrett had instructed him to be the best loyal agent there was so that there was no chance anyone would dare to suspect where his true loyalties lay. In the years that followed, Phil played the role perfectly. As he moved up in rank and became an efficient Specialist, other agents came to refereed to him as dry white toast. While Phil knew this persona was necessary, there was a part of him that wished he did owe everything he had to Garrett and could have the chance to be a true S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and not just be someone's secret weapon.

After the Battle of New York, Garrett came to him and gave him his greatest task, find out how Agent Grant Ward had been brought back to life.

After he learned he was going to be placed on the newly formed team Ward was going to led, Garrett thoroughly brief him on what he needed to do in order to insert himself with the team and gain their trust. During the ensuing months he achieved these goals but there was one complication he could not account for. During the course of his mission he had bonded with the team.

Skye showed him how to let go and have fun. Fitz and Simmons annoyed him at first with all their sciencey babble and over complicated explanations of things but he soon came to regard them as the younger sister and brother he never had. Despite sleeping with May in order to distract her, Coulson found her to be a source of solace and support. And FROM Ward, Coulson found himself under the supervision of a man who truly cared for him and was proud of him. Ward did not punish him if he made a mistake or failed. Instead, Ward wound put a hand on his shoulder and give it a comforting squeeze and tell him that it was alright. Garrett never showed him the type of affection Ward did and it made the Specialist wearing for more comforting words and actions. Soon, Phil found himself wishing that it had been Ward who had found him in that Juvenal center and rescued him from it. Then Ward could have been his S.O. And he could have been the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent he truly wanted to be.

Then HYDRA came out of the shadows and everything went to hell.

Coulson sat on the cot in his cell, hands folded in his lap and eyes fixed on the cold cement floor. It was over. Today was the day he was being transferred to his brother's custody. He could still hear Ward's angry words in his head and the look of pure detain on the Director's face when he tried to explain how he was still a member of the team. After Director Ward had stormed out, Coulson sat down on the cot and in one moment, he felt everything within him finally break down. It was all over. No one trusted him and they all wished he was dead. The small sliver of hope of the team forgiving him, the one that kept him going after his failed suicide attempts, was shattered. Coulson could not even find it within himself to cry. He had nothing left to cry for.

The guards his brother had sent arrived and Coulson found himself being led down the halls of the base. Along the way, he saw his former teammates looking at him. When he tried to speak to Sky, Simmons stepped in and promised to kill him if she ever saw him again. Coulson did not say another word. Finally, he was brought to the bases' garage and saw May and Ward standing by the transport van that would take him to Christian. Phil did not say anything to the Director and his Second in Command as they loaded him up in the van and made sure he was secured. Coulson gave Ward and May one final look. The last thing he saw as the doors were closed were the hard emotional looks on their faces.

The van started and they were off. During the ride, Coulson looked down at his handcuffs and thought how easy it would be to escape. All he had to do was dislocate his thumb and overpower the guards but he did not do it. This was his fate and there was nothing he could do to change it.

Coulson closed his eyes and quietly uttered the only two words he could think of. “I'm sorry.”

--Bonus Scene--

Baron Strucker stood before the Obelisk with Daniel Whitehall, gazing at the artifact in fascination. Strucker had come in person as opposed to sending Doctor List to speak with Whitehall which signaled how important the visit was. The Supreme Hydra rarely left Sokovia due to HYDRA’s operations there so Whitehall could not help but feel a sense of pride.

“The Grand Imperator is pleased with your work,” Strucker told Whitehall. “Those splinter bombs will make a great addition to our arsenal.”

Whitehall smiled. “Thank you, von Strucker. Hopefully, we’ll be able to learn more about the Obelisk’s abilities as we continue our work.”

Strucker nodded. “Has your Mister Zabo shared with you anymore of its secrets?”

“In its native language it’s called the Diviner. He’s also shared some more of its origin but I’m sure it’s not the whole truth.”

“It never is,” Strucker said.

Whitehall hummed in agreement and motioned for his old friend to sit. “So what else brings you all the way to Cleveland, von Strucker? I know it’s not just our friendship which would make the Supreme Hydra come all this way when you could have video messaged me.”

“You always liked to get to the point of the matter, Reinhardt,” Strucker said using the man’s true last name. “What I’m about to tell you is highly sensitive, known only to myself, the Council and the Grand Imperator.”

“Sounds serious,” Whitehall commented.

“It is. Gideon Malick.”

Whitehall grimed at hearing the name, knowing what the issue was. For years, Malick had been known for his extreme views about the origins of HYDRA. “He wants to find that Monolith again doesn’t he?”

“Yes. When word of your recent breakthroughs regarding the Obelisk were made know, Malick approached me to provide him with the resources he needs to find it wherever Fury had it hidden away. Based on your reports he's more convinced then ever that his...claims are well supported. He even accused me of favoritism by not allowing him to look for it.”

“And I’m, assuming we need to humor his request?”

“Yes,” Strucker answered. “Despite his…beliefs, Malick is a crucial resource for HYDRA. Being one of the only two reaming saviors of the World Security Council, Malick has access to highly classified information. The Grand Imperator is concerned that if we don’t make Malick happy he’ll break away and go rouge. And after the events with the late John Garrett, he does not wish to see that happen.”

Whitehall tapped his fingers together. “I understand. Normal procedures is to be applied?”

“Yes. If he finds his rock we let him have it but if the situation presents a danger to HYDRA, Malick is to be eliminated.”

Chapter Text

It was the bright sunlight that awoke Coulson from his slumber. At first the light made him winch but as he moved his head realized his head was lying on something hard. Opening his eyes, he say a large stack of files and papers. It took a moment before the Director realized he had fallen asleep at his desk. With a groan, Coulson lifted his head and sat up in his chair. He blinked several times so his eyes could adjust and focus. It was not uncommon for him to fall asleep at his desk. Usually he did it when he was working late going over reports or when he had gone for several days without sleep do to a mission. The strange thing was he remembered going to his room last night after the movie had ended. Looking down, Coulson saw that he was already dressed.

'I must have had another episode,' Phil concluded as he looked around the room for the strange symbols he always drew when these moments occurred. Seeing none, he figured May must have come across him and cleaned things up after he had fallen back asleep and just left him at his desk. But that still didn't explain how he was already dressed. All this thinking started to make his head hurt which most likely the reason why the time on his desk clock appeared jumbled.

Reaching up to rub his throbbing temples, Coulson suddenly remembered the dream he had had. It was like he had been put in Wards place and Ward in his. Coulson recalled every detail with clarity. How he had done Garrett's biding while forming attachments with the team and the emotional turmoil he felt when HYDRA had revealed itself. Everything had felt so real, especially the emotions but that could not have been true. Ward had no emotions He had been a soulless killer. Yet he could still feel the great sadness and remorse he had felt when the van's door had closed.

“It was just a dream,” Phil told himself as he got up from his desk. “Just a dream. Ward's gone for good. I need coffee.”

He walked out into the hall and headed towards the kitchen. The base was unusually quiet and he did not come across anyone else in the halls. When he got to the kitchen, he let out a groan when he saw the coffee pot was empty.

“Alright, who forgot to make the coffee?” the Director called out to the empty room. “Come on, I need coffee. I had a bad night.”

“You too,” a tried voice came from the doorway, causing Coulson to turn.

Standing behind him were Skye, Fitz, Trip and Simmons. All had dark circles under their eyes and looked completely exhausted. Skye then noticed the empty coffee pot in Coulson's hand and let out a moan.

“Please tell me there's coffee,” Tip moaned.

Coulson held up the empty pot and Skye groaned.

“Where the hell is the coffee? I need caffeine. I need a lot of caffeine.”

Trip shuffled over to Coulson and took the empty pot. “I'll make a fresh pot, you all go sit down. I thought this got set last night,” he murmured as he filled the pot.

Skye and the rest did as instructed and slumped down in the nearby table. Trip joined them after he turned the coffeemaker on and told them it would be a few minutes before the coffee was ready.

“I'm ex-exhaus...so tired,” Fitz said as he ran his hand through his hair.

“I know,” Simmons replied as she covered a yawned. “I take it everyone had trouble sleeping?”

Everyone nodded their heads but no one made any further comments on the topic. For the next several minuets no one spoke. They just sat there listing to the percolating sound of the coffee maker. Trip then looked over to Coulson.

“Where's May? Isn't she usually the first one up?”

“Except for today,” a drawn looking May answered as she came into the kitchen and sat down next to Coulson. “I had trouble sleeping. Nightmare.”

“Me too,” Trip said then looked to the rest of the team. “You guys?”

Everyone nodded.

“Well I'm sure your guy's was nothing compared to mine,” Skye said as set her set her elbows on the table, folded her hands and set her chin on them. “Ward was in it.”

“What?” Coulson said as he head snapped up. “Ward was in your dream?”

“Yeah but it was wired. I was there but it was like I was in his place ad he was in mine.”

Coulson's face turned white at description. “Mine was like that too.”

“And mine,” Simmons said. “Fitz?”

Fitz nodded in agreement.

“How about you two?” Coulson asked to May and Trip.

Trip shook his head. “No. Ward wasn't there but Garrett was.”

When Coulson looked to May, the Specialist gave a small nod. “He was my S.O.”

-----)AoS(-----

May proceeded to tell the team about her dream. She showed no emotion as she told them about the feelings of shame for disappointing Garrett and how she felt she had earned a shot in the leg as punishment. When she had finished, Coulson stated that the events in her dream had been an actual mission Garrett had undertaken when Ward had been his trainee at the time. Simmons then told of her dream to which Skye said it was just like the events Ward had once told her after the indecent with the Berserk Staff. Simmons commented that she could still hear Thomas Ward's screams in her head and the feelings of helplessness she had felt. Fitz went next. Amazingly, he was able to tell his story without becoming overwhelmed. Even as he told them about struggling to breath, all he could think about was telling Ward about Donnie and the remorse he felt when he had left. After he had finished, Simmons wrapped her arms around him and gave him a comforting hug.

Skye then explained what had happened in her dream followed by Coulson. Like Fitz, both found themselves going into detail about the emotional turmoil they experienced. Skye related how she hoped that by giving the team the information about HYDRA that she hoped they would eventually start to trust her again and accept her back. Coulson recalled feeling completely hallowed when he realized the team was never going to accept him back. When the Director had finished, they all looked to Trip. Trip tensed when they all set their gaze on him but seeing Skye's look of encouragement, Trip took a deep breath and started to tell the team about his dream.

“And he just left me there in the woods,” Trip concluded. “And just like May, I didn't hate him for attacking me. I just felt ashamed that I failed him.”

The room lapses into silence again. It had been a surreal experience listening to different dreams they had each had.

“Well I don't know about the rest of you but I need coffee now,” Skye suddenly stated as she got out of her chair and headed over to the coffeemaker. “What the hell?” Everyone turned and saw Skye holding an empty coffee pot. “Trip, I thought you turned this thing on?”

“I did,” Trip replied as he got up.

“Well then where’s the damn coffee?”

“Or for, for that matter, everyone, everyone else?” Fitz spoke up as he looked around the kitchen. “We've been sit-siting here all this ti-time and no one's walked in.”

Coulson and the others suddenly realized that Fitz was correct. They had been sitting in the kitchen for what felt like hours and no other agents had appeared. In fact, they could hear no noise at all. May walked out into the hall and headed towards the labs. The rest of the team stayed where they were. A couple of minutes, May returned with a serious look on her face.

“No one,” the Specialist said coming to the point. “Koenig, Hunter, everyone's gone.”

“Morse and Mackenzie?” Coulson asked with a hint of trepidation.

May just shook her head and gave Coulson a knowing look which the others did not notice.

Coulson frowned. He knew that May also feared that the disappearances were a result of Gonzales finally making his move against them. The fact that both Bobbie and Mack were gone seemed to confirm his worries. He knew that there was no way the six of them could defend the Playground from Gonzales and his forces.

“Okay, I'm officially freaked out,” Skye said as held herself. “This is like all those slasher flicks where the gang of teenagers is picked off by the knife wielding psychopath one by one.”

“Yeah and we all know who the first one in those films is the first one to bite it,” Trip said sarcastically.

Coulson held up his hands motioned for calm. “Everyone, just calm down. I'm sure there's a logical explanation for what's going on here. I suggest that we go through the base and look for whatever is the cause here. We'll stay as a group, no splitting up. Alright?”

Everyone hesitated for a moment but they all agreed to Coulson's plane. May led the way with Coulson behind her. Skye followed behind Fitz and Simmons who were huddled close together and Trip brought up the rear. With great care they ventured out onto the eerily quiet hall.

-----)AoS(-----

Just like May had reported, the base was completely empty. They checked everywhere. The labs, the shooting range the armory, all the rooms and bunks, storage rooms, the basement, even the holding cells. Nothing. To make things worse, they tried all the exits and none would open. Both May and Trip tried to force the doors open but failed. Fitz and Simmons tried to figure out what was causing this but came up with no solution. This made everyone feel more on edge. About the only consoling fact was that were armed and therefore able to defend themselves. They came to the hanger and it was just like the rest of the base, completely empty with the exception of the Bus and Quinjet

“This is like an episode of that show,” Fitz said. “That one...the one with the...the one with the gremlin on the plane...”

“The Twilight Zone,” Trip answered. “Yeah. I have the same feeling.

“I said it before and I'll say it again, I'm officially freaked out,” Skye stated as they stood looking around the hanger.

“I'm beginning to agree with you,” Coulson said. The situation was making him feel more on edge thought he no longer felt that Gonzales was behind the disappearance of the S.H.I.E.L.D. personnel. This was most due to the fact that the Quinjet was still parked in hanger and there had not been an attack on the Playground at any time during their search of the base. If Gonzales had been behind it, he would had have made his move to storm the base and assume control.

“Well I got some more bad news for you,” Trip called out from the other side of the hanger. “The controls aren't responding so the hanger doors won't open.”

“So we're officially locked in with no way out. Great,” Skye groaned.

“We'll think of something,” Coulson assured her. “We just need to stay calm and not panic.”

“Coulson's right,” May told them. “Who or whatever is behind this has have to have left behind some clue.”

“The only place we haven't checked out yet of the Bus,” Trip stated as they all turned and looked at the innocent looking jet.

Everyone looked to Coulson and waited for his orders. All the Director did was nod and they walked over to the Bus. Once they were up the ramp and in the cargo bay, Coulson motioned for them to stop.

“We'll split up. May take the cockpit and the front part. FitzSimmons, the labs. Trip, you take the cage and storage. Skye, check the bunks and the lounge. I'll check here and my bunk. We'll met up in the command center twenty minutes. Be alert and be careful.”

They splintered off and went about checking their assigned areas. As they searched every inch and dark corner, there were times when they felt like they were being watch but when they turned, they found no one there.

“We've searched every inch of this plane and found nothing,” Simmons said when later assembled in the command center. They were all standing around the holotable on the just like old times, back before HYDRA.

“I know and I’m officially out of ideas,” Coulson said as he leaned on the edge of the table.

“I have one but no one's going to like it,” Trip said as he crossed his arms across his chest. His teammates turned their attention to him and Coulson motioned for him to continue. “Well, maybe we went out on a mission and we didn't...didn't make it back.”

The team looked at Trip with stunned looks.

“So you're saying we're in the middle of the finale for Lost?” Skye asked him. “We're all dead and this is what?” she motioned around them, “God's waiting room?”

“It would ex-explain why we're the only ones here?” Fitz said. “And why...why we can't leave.”

Simmons shook her head. “No that can't be. If were dead then you would be normal again.” She turned to face the Director and did not see the hurt expression on the engineer's face. “Sir, there has to be something we're missing.”

Coulson closed his eyes and let out a deep sigh. “And I have no damn idea what that might be. Everything just leads to dead ends. I hate to say it but maybe Trip is right. Maybe we are dead. It would explain why we had those dreams about Ward and why I woke up in my office wearing the same cloths last night.”

“Do you really believe that,” May asked him with a skeptical look.

“It's something. Let's see what the last mission entry was.”

Coulson activated the holotable and asked it to display the most current mission logs for the Bus. If Trip's suggestion was correct then the Rio de Janeiro mission would be the last completed entry but when the logs materialized, all that came up was an illegible jumble.

WN4io2gt55L: Ffd90-EEvt75. Ip084-f-G8-33mr. Sd54d. Uyr74...5tUNFKSDnldv9en...JQN099. 5c0sr.xncUUUnm -nfvuN.JJksj99wmvm scjgf vjvnmjs0jv….94tP-Q. DPOJhc6rdfK.

“What the hell?” Coulson let out as he tapped on the table again. Nothing changed. “Why is it doing this? Skye?”

The young hacker picked up a nearby tabled and made just two taps on the screen before she looked up at the Director with a harried expression. “It's the same thing on this,” she said showing them the screen that read NFH84.SVN...ckj...vjd. V2od0rymnbUIY. AOJLZih-tBAFSVN...P0DM-33-7K-V. MLKPncv974n...gom7-OSM

“Great,” the Director sighted as he pinched the bridge of his nose. “We've been hacked and since I can feel a stinging sensation from this pinching, I can concluded that I'm very much alive since a dead man isn't supposed to feel pain.”

The Director's conclusion brought a sense of relief to the team. Skye decided to verify Coulson's claim by reaching over and pinching Trip on the arm. When the agent let out a loud cry of pain, the young hacker stated Coulson was right.

“So we're not dead. Fine but we still have no idea what's going on,” May huffed.

“Sir, maybe this is a situation that the Tool Box might prove useful,” Simmons suggested.

I think you're right, Agent Simmons. Everyone back to my office and remember to stay alert.”

They quickly made their way back down to the cargo hold and down the ramp. They were just about to exit the hanger when Fitz suddenly stopped dead in his tracks which made the rest of the team hurry to his side. They could tell from the panicked look on his face that something had deeply disturbed him.

“What is it? What's wrong Fitz?” Simmons asked taking hold of his arm.

“Th-Th-The...”

“The what, Fitz?”

“The store-storage contain-containers,” Fitz stammered as he pointed to a group of storage containers stacked against the wall. “The....writing....”

Simmons and the rest of the team looked to see what Fitz was trying to say and when they did, they all let out a gasp. The writing on the labels of the storage containers was a jumbled mixture of letters, just like the data log entries on the Bus and on Skye's tabled had appeared. Skye looked away then covered her mouth and let out a muffled cry as she pointed to the exit sign over the door. It read R9pf.

-----)AoS(-----

The team wasted no time in getting back to Coulson's office. Coulson hurried over to his desk and looked down at the various papers scattered across his desk. His face paled when he saw that the lettering and numbers on the pages were just as jumbled as the exit sign and container labels. Then he noticed his desk clock read 9L:b2. Seeing the same thing Coulson was, the team started reached for nearby folders and files.

“It's all the same,” Simmons said as she flipped through the pages of the binder she was holding. “It's all just-”

“Gibberish,” Fitz finished for her.

“May held up an old manual of S.H.I.E.L.D. regulations. “I know each of these by heart yet I can't read anyone of them.”

Skye sat down on the small couch and put her face in her hands. “Alright, I've seen a lot of freaky stuff over the past year but this takes the cake. We're locked in our base, alone and unable to read anything. Okay we're not dead but maybe we did go out on a mission and something did happen to us.”

“You mean like we got knocked out and someone decided to mess with our heads?” Trip asked as he crossed his arms.

“Skye may be onto something,” Coulson said thoughtfully as he leaned over his desk.

“How so?” May asked with narrow eyes.

“Like Skye said, maybe someone is messing with our heads.

Simmons pursed her lips together. “You mean like some type of physiological experiment?”

“Yes. Perhaps we did go out on a mission and someone got the drop on us. Then instead of straight out killing us, they decided to put us through this, whatever it is,” the Director said waving his hand around. “Whoever captured us might have psychological torment in mind for us rather than a physical assault.”

“It is possible that we were subjected to some form of post-hypnotic suggestion that makes all wording to appear all jumble together,” Simmons added with a tilt of her head.

Skye, Trip and May took a moment to consider what Coulson had put forth. Eventually, each nodded their head in agreement. What Skye had suggest did make more sense than Trip's previous hypothesis that they were all dead and in some type of limbo. As they started to discuss possible solutions to their predicament, Fitz stood off to the side, quiet and deep in thought. Fitz was sure that Coulson was wrong about their situation. Now, all he had to do was find the correct words to say it.

He knew the rest of the team thought he was no longer capable of complex thinking without stumbling over his words and becoming emotionally upset when trying to get his point across but they were wrong. Thanks to Mack, Fitz was getting better with finding the right words and connecting them with what it was he wanted to say. He just had to remember to take his time and not try to rush himself too much. That's when he would start to stammer. Sadly, the team didn't always extend Fitz this courtesy. They still expected him to sound off some type of science jargon like had used to do and when he had to stop to think of even the simplest words, they would give him looks of pity before turning to Simmons for the explanation. Mack was the only person not to look at him with pity. In fact, the mechanic had accepted him from the first moment they met and was the only one who treat him like nothing was wrong with him. That simple action made Fitz feel all warm inside. But right now, he could not think about how kind Mack was or how huge his biceps were.

Taking a deep breath, Fitz squared his shoulders and cleared his throat to get the rest of the team's attention. “I...I think you're wrong, Sir,” Fitz stated firmly to Coulson.

Coulson and the team stared at him in silence. Simmons in particular was looking at him with a look of shock that he even spoke in the first place.

“And what makes you say that, Fitz” Coulson asked. His tone was calm and there had been no hint of irritation but the way he had raised his eyebrow suggested that the young engineer had better have a good explanation and facts to back him up.

“Look around,” Fitz began slowly. “How could any-anyone construct su...such a per-perfect replica of the ba-base? Everything is ex-exact-exactly where it should be. HYDRA couldn't do this fine of a job. Even if this was all just a holo-hologram, they would needed to have mapped out the entire base and they couldn't do that withou-without being noticed.”

Silence followed after Fitz had finished. Fitz had half expected Coulson to politely tell him he was wrong but the man just looked down at the scattered papers on his desk. Simmons and the others looked at Fitz in amazement as they quietly pondered his words. Finally Coulson let out a deep sigh and rubbed the side of his face.

“Fitz is right. This is far too elaborate a plot for HYDRA. Then we're back to square one and I'm fresh out of ideas.” Looking to his team, Coulson watched as their shoulders fell and their faces broke out in tired looks of defeat. “I'm sorry.”

“It's not your fault, DC,” Skye told him.

“Yeah,” Trip added. “You've done the best you could.

Fitz and Simmons nodded. “They're right, Sir,” Simmons said with a small smile.

May came over and put her hand on his shoulder. Coulson was glad to have not only her support but the support of his team. Now if they could only figure this thing out. Then for some unknown reason he remembered their earlier discussion in the kitchen.

“It's kinda funny,” he said with a small laugh, “but if I had to say what this was right off the top of my head, I would say we were stuck in some godawful dream.”

A clap of thunder and flash of green light filled the room. Suddenly a figure materialized right before Coulson and the team.

“Well, that took you long enough to figure out,” the figure said sarcastically. He was tall and thin, dressed in green with a long flowing cape. His skin was death white and his eyes were fiery red. “And after I had heard such amazing things about you all. The legendary Cavalry. The brilliant FitzSimmons. Wiz with a keyboard Skye. Dependable Trip. Him in the suite and sunglasses.”

“Who are you?” Coulson demanded as he and May pulled out their weapons and pointed them at the strange figure. Skye and Trip meanwhile moved and got Fitz and Simmons behind them, they had their weapons out as well.

“Me?” the figure asked with a dark chuckle as he slowly advanced towards them, also appearing to glide. “Oh I've had many names over the centuries. Ja-thoom. Phi Am. The Boogeyman. But please, call me Nightmare.”

--Bonus Scene--

Gonzales and his council stood on the deck of the Iliad waiting for the arrival of their potential future ally. If things worked out, Gonzales would have the extra strength he would need to take down Coulson and his illegitimate S.H.I.E.L.D. faction. Coulson was a good agent but the man was too much like Fury and that was a serious danger. Fury's habit of keeping secrets and lying that had brought about S.H.I.E.L.D.'s downfall. There had been no system of checks and balances to ensure that no one individual held all the power in their hands. Gonzales and his allies were committed to ensure those flaws never occurred again. The S.H.I.E.L.D. they had founded was what the organization should have been based on all along, truth, transparency and balance.

Another concern shared by Gonzales and his council about Coulson was the fact the man was not really human anymore. He had alien DNA in him and his recent actions so far had led to the death to Isabelle Hartley. The man was clearly unstable and unfit to lead. From the latest reports he had received from Agents Morse and Mackenzie, Coulson appeared to becoming more unsettled by the day. If after the fall of Coulson's S.H.I.E.L.D. the man needed to be removed permanently then Gonzales would pull the trigger himself.

For the real S.H.I.E.L.D. to survive, all potential threats would have to be eliminated.

“Here they come,” Anne Waver said pointing to an incoming Quinjet.

“Good,” Gonzales said as he tapped his cane on the tarmac and turned to face his allies. “Remember, he's a highly important and influential resource for us and our cause. His support will be crucial for us to receive the political and international support we'll need. He was always critical of Fury's running of S.H.I.E.L.D. and has no love for Coulson which works in our favor but we still need to sway him to join our cause. S.H.I.E.L.D. must exist for the greater good of the world but we cannot do so without him. Is that understood?”

Everyone nodded in confirmation. Gonzales gave them a characteristic smile which in turn made Waver, Oliver and the others smile. Even Calderon had a small smile on his face. The Quinjet landed and the boarding ramp lowered a few moments later.

“Let's go,” Gonzales ordered and started to make his way to the Quinjet with the rest of his council following behind him. They gathered at the bottom of the ramp and waited for a moment before a man made his way to the foot where Gonzales stood. “Welcome aboard the Iliad,” Gonzales said as he held out his hand.

“Thank you, Commander Gonzales,” Gideon Malick replied as he took the extended hand and shook it. “You have no idea how long I've waited to arrive.”

As they let go of each other’s hand, two men made their way down the ramp and stood beside Malick. One was a young man with glasses wearing a black sweater vest over his white shirt along with a yellow bow tie and blue pants. The other was an older man with a shallow complexion and craggy face in black tactical uniform.

“Allow me to introduce Doctor Benedict Ambrius, one of my scientific consultants and Eric Williams, my personal protector for this trip,” Malick said with a hint of humor at the end.

Gonzales nodded to each man then noticed that Williams' right hand was missing. In its place was a black cybernetic replacement. Williams noticed Gonzales' gaze and held his hand up for all to see.

“Lost it to an assassin,” Williams supplied grimly with no further explanation.

“Who he hopes to one day even out the score but we're not here to relive the past. We're here to help fulfill a vision of a better world,” Malick stated as he placed a hand on Gonzales' shoulder. “A world governed by law and order to help ensure a safe and secure society.”

“My thoughts exactly,” Gonzales replied. “Let's go in so we can talk.”

Gonzales put his hand on Malick's back and led him across the flight deck into the Iliad as they made small talk. They were followed by the council and Malick's companions. Ambrius soon started conversing with Agent Waver while Williams did not say a word to anyone.

As they made their way to they their way from the Quinjet, no one noticed the ominous figure in red standing at the top of the ramp.

Chapter Text

“Nightmare?” Coulson asked the chalk-white man dressed in green.

“Exactly right, Director Coulson. I am Nightmare, Lord of Dreams,” he said with a bow. “And you were right. This is a dream and a very special dream at that.”

“T-that's why the writing was all jumbled up. It's impossible to read anything in a dream,” Fitz concluded.

“Then I say it's time to wake up,” May said as she pointed her gun at him.

“Really? I tell you you're all in a dream and you plan on shooting me?” Nightmare asked as he snapped his fingers, causing May's gun to disappear. The guns the others were holding also disappeared. “What part of this is a dream didn't you understand?”

“The whole dream part,” Skye answered for the agents.

“Then allow me to enlighten you,” Nightmare replied before he vanished into thin air.

Before anyone could act, the agents felt the ground beneath them started to move and shift. The walls of the office began to twist and turn in on themselves. A blinding flash of color blinded the team and they felt themselves being dropped from a great height. They fell for what felt like several feet before they landed on hard ground.

“Is everyone okay?” Coulson asked.

“Yeah,” Skye answered.

“Yes, Sir,” Simmons answered.

That was some landing,” Trip murmured as they picked themselves up off the ground.

May shrugged. “I've had worse.”

“Gu-Guys. You need to see th-this,” Fitz called out.

Turning, the team was left speechless as they took in their surroundings. The agents found themselves standing on a piece of rock in surreal psychedelic landscape. Odd geometric shapes floated in the eerier void. Distorted surfaces and colorful forms hung without support. Narrow pathways weaved their way through the void. The only solid land masses were floating pieces of rock like there were standing on.

“We're differently not in Kansas anymore,” Coulson mused as he took in the surroundings

“It's kinda neat, in a surreal kinda way,” Trip commented.

Skye meanwhile made her way over to the edge and looked down. “If you think that's something take a look at what's below us.”

The others came to where Skye stood and looked over the edge, taking care not to lean too far over. Simmons took hold of Fitz in a vice-like grip to which the young engineer found annoying.

“Oh my...” was all Simmons got out when her and the others' eyes took in what was below them.

What was blow them could only be descried as a dark and ominous. Unlike what floated above, the shapes and forms were dark and twisted. Looming shadows appeared to have leering faces darted from surface to surface. Lurking about jagged prices of stone were numerous nightmarish looking creatures. Long shadow-like tentacles lashed out from the darkness trying to ensnare anything they could grasp. At the very bottom was what could only be descried as a boiling lake of fire.

“Where the hell are we?” Skye asked.

“You're in my realm,” came a response from above. Looking up, they saw Nightmare grinning down at them with amusement from a cloud of crimson mist. “Welcome to the Nightmare World.”

“And where exactly would that be? May asked in her normal calm tone.

“A fair question to ask my dear Melinda,” Nightmare responded by holdout his arms up in a broad gesture. “The Nightmare World is my personal domain within the Dream Dimension which is shaped by humanity's collective unconscious. Those who are tormented come here where I exact my influence on their dreams turning them into nightmares. Here in this world, I am supreme.”

Coulson just looked at him with an unimpressed expression. “I've heard that speech before pal. The last guy who went off saying he was a king ended up getting the crap beat out of him by the Hulk.”

Nightmare just waved the Directors words off. “I can assure you I'm not as pompous as Loki is, Director. Just as I can assure you I'm in a class beyond that of an Asgardian. I am demon.”

“That's impossible. Demons aren't real,” Simmons stated with haughty derision

Nightmare did not respond right away. He smirked at Simmons with a knowing look as a winding path appeared from nowhere between him and the agents. “Just as aliens, Norse Gods, immortals and portals to other worlds don't exist?” Nightmare asked as he slowly made his way down to where the agents stood, his green cape billowing behind him.

Simmons opened her mouth but quickly shut it. Skye shared a look with Coulson and May before looking back to the eerie looking figure. She had to admit that with everything she had seen since the Battle for New York that it was hard not to believe in things that were once thought impossible to exist.

“Okay, so you're a demon. Like a demon-demon?” Trip asked cautiously.

“And what would make me a demon-demon, may I ask?”

“You take human souls in exchange for something only to have the trade turn around and bite you in the ass,” Skye clarified.

“That would be my friend Mephisto,” Nightmare answered. “I merely draw one's psyche into my world as they slumber.”

“So you can-can feed on their psy...psychic energies,” Fitz declared as he pointed a slightly trembling finger at Nightmare. “You...get your pow-power from our nightmares don't you?”

“Exactly right, Leopold. Fear is power and with each nightmare I cause the more powerful I become. I must say you never fail to amaze me with your cognitive abilities,” the Lord of Dreams said with admiration before gazing over to the rest of the team. “It's a shame there are those who believe you to be a broken shadow of your former self and are someone to pity. That is, of course, with the exception of one special person.”

At Nightmare's words, the team felt like they had been pounced in the stomach by an ice cold fist. Fitz meanwhile shrugged off Simmons’ hold on him and walked straight up the Lord of Dreams and looked him straight in the eye.

“Well I-I might be br-broken but I've seen enough Doctor Who episodes and car-cartoons to know that you can't be hurt in a dream.”

“Once again you're correct. There's nothing I can do to you in this dream world which would cause you harm in the real world. But remember it's a two way street. You can't hurt a dream which means you can't harm me.”

“Alright, it's time for some answers” Coulson suddenly spoke up in his no-nonsense-Director tone as he stepped towards Nightmare and crossed his arms “You're a demon that's responsible for everyone's nightmares which gives you strength. Got it. But you still haven't told us why the hell you brought us here or what it is you want from us.”

“You're correct, Philip. I've been a thoughtless host. It's indeed time I explain my reasons for bring you here.”

Before Coulson or anyone else could reply, Nightmare snapped his fingers and everything twisted together in a kaleidoscope of blinding color.

---(AoS)---

The team found themselves standing in a dark fog filled limbo. Looking around, they saw Nightmare was nowhere to be seen. Then a loud and familiar voice broke through the silence.

“What the...? This isn't Tijuana. She-beast? What the hell?”

Turing, they saw a disgruntled looking Hunter glaring at an equally unhappy looking Bobbie. Standing between them was Mack

“Well if I'm stuck with you then this must be Hell,” Agent Morison replied rolling her eyes at her ex-husband before she caught sight of the Director and the others. “Coulson? May? Is that you?”

“It is, Agent Morris” Phil answered as he led the others over to them. “You three alright?”

The three of them nodded. “Sir, where exactly are we?” Mack asked.

“You wouldn't believe it if I told you,” Coulson answered.

“Cliff note version,” Skye spoke up, “the six all had a nightmare where we were Ward. We woke-up back at the base with no one else around only to find out we couldn't read anything. But then we find out the whole thing was a dream created by a demon called Nightmare who's the apparent causes of all nightmares and uses nightmares as the source of his powers. And we confronted him as to why he went all Freddy Kruger on us and kidnapped us to his little dream world, he dumped us here and sucked you three into this mess.”

Bobbie and the others looked the younger agent with flabbergasted expression. They shifted their gaze over to the Director and the other agents who just nodded.

“Okay. That makes sense...I guess,” Bobbie said.

“Nightmare?” Hunter asked skeptically. “Really? That's his name?”

Mack meanwhile made his way over to Fitz. “You doin' okay, Turbo?”

“He's fine,” Simmons answered, not noticing the dejected look on Fitz's face.

Mack gave her a look. “Are you okay, Fitz?” he repeated, emphasizing the engineer’s name, not caring about the offended look which broke out on the biochemist’s face.

Fitz gave the mechanic a tentative smile. “I'm fine.”

Suddenly out of the darkness, Nightmare appeared. He advanced toward the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents with his cape billowed after him “Ah, the gang's all here. Excellent.”

“That's Nightmare,” Skye pointed out to the three agents.

“That guy's a demon?” Hunter asked, looking unimpressed with the Lord of dreams. “Aren't demons supposed to have horns and tails?”

“I would mind you tongue if I were you, Mister Hunter.”

“Or what? Gonna spook us with some spiders or scary dancing skeletons?”

“Would you like to see what I'm capable of in this world?” Nightmare asked with dark grin before he disappeared in a whiff of smoke.

“Way to go, Hunter. You just gave an interdenominational being license to knock the crap out of us,” Mack groaned.

Before Hunter or anyone could reply, the ground beneath them fell away and the agents suddenly found themselves falling down into darkness.

“Perhaps I should show you exactly how powerful I am,” Nightmare's taunting voiced echoed in the darkness. “Welcome to your nightmares.”

What followed next was what could only be decried as a twisted version of the tunnel scene from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Coulson looked on in horror as he saw himself being subjected to the T.A.H.I.T.I. Procedure and heard his pleads to be allowed to die. May witnessed her actions in Bahrain, feeling the coldness of her actions overtake her. Both Bobbie and Mack experienced the HYDRA attack on the Iliad wondering if they were going to survive the onslaught. Fitz saw himself slowly lose concise in the medical pod and could feel everything fading away to nothing. Simmons felt the pull of the water try to drag her down as she watched herself swam to the surface holding on to Fitz for dear life. Trip felt the gnawing feeling of betrayal as he experienced Garrett's treachery as he watched his former S.O. kill S.H.I.E.L.D. agents without a second thought. Tears welled up in Skye's eyes as she relived the heartbreaking moment of learning Ward was HYDRA.

The team was forced to relive their personal nightmares over and over again. Each time, the pain and torment became stronger and stronger. They couldn’t see what the others were seeing but they could all too clearly hear the cries of their teammates. Just when it appeared that the nightmarish scenes would never end and their voices would turn raw from all their yelling, everything went pitch dark. The next thing they knew, they were lying on the ground, surrounded by darkness but able to see each other.

“I’m getting really fed up with this,” May says in pissed off tone as she and the others get up. She tried to keep her voice calm but they could hear the quiver in her tone.

“Me too,” Coulson says in agreement looking up into the fog. “Alright you bastard I'm sick and tired of all this crap! It's time you tell us why the hell you brought us here! What's been the point of all this?”

“Grant Ward,” came the simple answer.

Turning, they saw Nightmare standing behind them with a calm look on his death-white face. It was like they were completely frozen unable to move or speak.

“Didn’t any of you ever wonder why he became HYDRA in the first place? Why he so blindly followed John Garrett? Or even how they first met in the first place?” Nightmare put to them as he started to walk among them.

“They met when Garrett got assigned as his S.O.” May stated.

“But was that truly the first time they met?”

“It was,” Coulson declared. “His file-”

“And of course there's no chance whatsoever that that files had been altered,” Nightmare interrupted. “Just like I'm sure you didn't think anything of the missing five years between the time Ward had been sent to a Juvenile detention center and the when he entered your S.H.I.E.L.D. Academy.”

“He had the perfect life,” Skye spoke-up, her words filled anger and denial. “He grew up with the perfect parents, the perfect siblings, and the perfect home. The perfect everything.”

“I'm sure you did a thorough search of his past once you had him locked away,” Nightmare directed to Skye. “You tracked down his siblings and those who had worked in the Ward home and asked them what it was like to grow-up in that house. Because then you would be aware that both his younger brother and older sister have both changed their name and have dropped completely out of sight. Not to mention the number of nannies and maids that the Ward's went through when Grant was growing up and the large cash payments his father made to them over the years.”

Jemma covered her ears and shook her head. “Stop it! Just stop it! You're lying. Everything you're saying is a lie. Ward was born a monster!”

“No one's born a monster, my dear. Monsters are created. If Grant Ward had the perfect life as you all claimed then why would he turn against the ideals of freedom and democracy to carry out the will of HYDRA?”

“Garret made him,” Trip replied.

“Again, I ask you why? Why did Garrett choose Ward specifically to be his double agent? He had trained other agents didn't he? Yet none of them turned out to be HYDRA moles. So what made Ward different from all the other agents Garrett had trained? Can any of you answer that?”

Coulson looked to May, Skye, Trip and FitzSimmons but no one spoke. Each had a tense look on their face.

“Hate to interrupt,” Hunter spoke-up, “but since we never knew the guy why are we here exactly?”

“It wouldn't be fair to let your teammates to suffer through the revitalization they gravely misjudge Ward and his actions without knowing the truth alone now would it?”

“What truth?” Simmons yelled on the verge of tears.

“The truth about Ward's past. The dreams you experienced were-”

“Were just hallucinations you created,” May interjected. “They weren't real.”

At May words, Nightmare let out a great laugh that echoed in the darkness. It was an ominous laugh that chilled the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents to the bone. “It never ceases to amaze me how near sighted you mortals allow yourselves to be when blinded by your own anger. You think those nightmares are of my creation? Permit me to show you differently.”

Taking hold of his cape, which suddenly grew in size, the Lord of Dreams swung it about. Before they knew it, the team found themselves enveloped within its darkness.

--- (AoS) ---

Once again, Coulson and his agents found themselves in another setting. This time they were standing in an infinitely vast cosmos. They stared in awe as the watched bright stars and colorful plants float by and shooting stars streaked across the darkness. Looking down, Fitz let out a gasp of shock which got the attention of the others who turned to see what Fitz had seen.

Directly below them was what appeared to be a large dark swirling maelstrom. Jagged bolts of lightning flashed across the ominous clouds. Coulson and the others suddenly felt extremely cold as they gazed down at the swirling vortex. An atmosphere of great sadness and suffering oozed from the black center of the storm.

“What in the world is that?” Skye asked as she tried to keep from shivering.

“The wellspring which consists of all of Grant Ward's nightmares.”

Hearing Nightmare's voice coming from above them, the team looked up only to see that the Demon Lord was now gigantic and they were now standing in his hand.

“See? With a mere thought I can make you all fit within my hand.”

“Enough with the games,” Coulson pleaded. “You said you brought us here because of Ward but why him? Just tell us why.”

“I wanted you all suffer. Each one of your nightmares was a real life moment from Ward's life. I wanted you to know that Ward was a victim who had no say or control over the events of his short life. I wanted you to realize that he was broken and remade to serve the will of a madman. And now thanks to you, he'll never have a chance to redeem himself.

“Why is t-that?” Fitz asked.

“You freely handed him over to his brother. They’ll be no trial for him. Just a gunshot to head. You willingly sent an abuse victim to his death.”

“No, it's not true,” Skye cried as she sank to her knees.

“But it is my dear. I can see that deep down in your heart you know it to be true.”

“Then when we wake-up we'll find a way to stop you from tormenting us,” Simmons shouted.

“You can't stop me. Neither you nor your little friends no nothing of the mystic arts and I highly doubt that any of you know the Sorcerer Supreme of your dimension. Besides, as long as mortals dream and have nightmares I shall always be. And now, I think our time together has come to an end.”

“You're going to let us go? Just like that?”

Nightmare nodded. “But before any of you wake, you shall experience every moment of the living nightmare which was the life of Grant Ward.”

Letting out a purely evil laugh, Nightmare dropped the S.H.I.E.L.D agents into the dark whirlpool. The last thing they all heard and saw before the darkness took over was the looming figure of Nightmare laughing in triumph.

Later, Nightmare stood in his dark inner sanctum watching the sleeping forms of Coulson and his team being tormented by their nightmares through nine mystic windows. True to his word, each agent was reliving Ward's full past and was subjected to all the pain and suffering he had felt. Best of all, Nightmare had made it so none of them could wake from their nightmares until morning.

“So what was the true point of all this?” a smooth voice asked from behind.

“One off my favorite tasks is selecting beings for special torture. Coulson and his agents presented me with a perfect opportunity I couldn't pass up,” Nightmare answered honestly.

“I see. Still, you're not worried they'll seek retribution against you?”

“No,” Nightmare replied as he turned and walked over to his throne “Like I said they have no knowledge of the mystic arts nor of the Sorcerer Supreme of their dimension. I got what I wanted from them. When they awake, they will seek out the truth in hopes to disprove my claims which they'll fail to do. And once that happens, they'll have even more nightmares for me to gain strength from.”

Nightmare’s admission received a hum of approval from his other worldly guest.

“And now my friend, what can I do for you? I know you must keep your time away from Asgard to a minimal as to not attract the attention of your gatekeeper and king.”

“Do not worry. I have more than one way of cloaking my presence from Heimdall and the Allfather. As to the reason for my visit, I would like to talk to you about my dear brother,” Loki replies with a dark smile.

--Bonus Scene--

The biannual meeting of Hydra’s leadership or to be more precise, the sub leadership group which was actually just a stand in for the HYDRA Council, was having it biannual meeting. This time, the six members had gathered at the home of its member the Banker. As usually, they sat around a round table which had an inlay of the HYDRA symbol.

The topic they were discussing was the recent seizure of the Iliad by Gideon Malick and his team. Malick’s reports had stated they took the ship with ease thanks in part to the work of the Grim Reaper and capturing Gonzales and his forces completely off guard.

“And what of Gonzales and his allies?” the Shriek asked.

“The Cardinal is taking care of them,” Whitehall answered.

“And the remaining saviors?” asked Octavian Bloom.

“They will comply. One way or another,” Whitehall said with a sly smile. “I’, having Mister Bakshi prepare for their arrival to my new facility.

As much as he detested the man, the Banker nodded to Whitehall. The man had a skill with breaking individuals. “I’m getting my team ready to go in and take inventory of the Iliard’s contents. From what information we already had, we know Fury would use the ship as a hiding place for things he didn’t want others to know about.”

“In all a successful mission,” the Baroness said. “The Iliad will make a fine addition to HYDRA’s forces.”

Doctor List shook his head. “I’m afraid not. Though the Iliad was one of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s finest ships, Baron Strucker has ordered the ship to be left alone. He wishes for it to be discovered as to send a message to Phil Coulson and his little group as a warning. As you seem to have the most interaction with the man and his forces, can you arrange for its discovery, Doctor Whitehall?”

“I sure that can be arranged.”

“Good. And now, I must discuss a highly important matter,” List said gravely as he folded his hands on the table. “After the Iliad had been taken, I was contact by Professor Ambrius who relayed some distressing news. During a primary search through the Iliad’s content, Gideon Malick discovered the stone monolith he been searching for.”

The other HYDRA leaders were stunned. They all knew the implications of this development. Whitehall had to fight the urge to openly scoff at the news. He was well aware of the Malick and his obsession with the legends surrounding the monolith.

“What does Baron Strucker wish to be done about this?” Bloom asked.

“For now, just wait and see as Malick plays with his rock. Malick is still important to HYDRA’s needs so Baron Strucker wants a contingency plan ready for the future if needed.”

Chapter Text

“He lied. That's all there is to it,” Simmons stated firmly though there was a hint of shakiness to her voice.

Simmons stood in the middle of Coulson's office, ridged as a piece of steel. Trip, and Fitz stood beside the window with their hands in their pockets and uneasy looks on their faces. May was perched on the edge of the Director's desk while Coulson stood in the corner pinching this nose.

It had been five days since they woke-up from their waking nightmare. After their experience with Nightmare, the team had been hesitant to accept his words about Ward. Simmons and May stubbornly refused to believe the demon's words while Fitz and Skye beguilingly admitted that there could well been some truth to them. Coulson was stuck in the middle, torn between the two sides. Bobbie, Hunter and Mack, having no personal ties to the matter, stayed out of the matter.

“He's a self-proclaimed demon,” Simmons went on, “so there's bases to accept anything he says.”

“She's right,” May spoke up. “Nightmare went out of his way to demonstrate his powers of manipulation. He even said that he tormented people for fun. All this dreams we had were nothing but him messing with us.”

Trip shook his head. “But what if he's right? I hate to bring it up but he made some good points. Did any of us really know the Ward we thought we knew? I'll admit I saw his file and thought nothing of it but now knowing about HYDRA and Garrett, isn't it possible that there's stuff that got covered up?”

“It was all lies,” Simmons protested. “Ward was a psychopath from the start. His brother confessed as much to Coulson. Innocent people don't join HYDRA. Only sick basters with no concise or humanity do.”

“Jemma-” Fitz started to say before she interrupted him.

“No! Don't you dare try to suggest Ward was somehow a victim,” Simmons scolded as she pointed a finger at the young engineer. “He left us to die at the bottom of the ocean.”

“He could had shot us, overpowered us and snapped our necks, even let Peterson kill us but he didn't!” Fitz said back to her. “I'm still alive same as you.”

How can you say that Fitz? He ruined you-”

“I'm not dead Jemma!” Fitz snapped, startling the bioscentist.

“Alright that's enough,” Coulson spoke out as he turned. “Everyone take a deep breath and relax.”

Simmons gave Fitz a flabbergasted glance before going over and standing next to May.

“I know you all feel like you've been through the emotional ringer. Trust me, I know,” Coulson stated wearily. “I can't forget the hurt and pain Ward put us through and more than once I've thought about putting a bullet right between his eyes but now...I don't really know what to feel.” Reaching up, Coulson rubbed his eyes. “I hate him. I want to see him dead at my feet but those dream....I can't forget those nightmares or what I felt in them. The fear...the fear was all too real. I genuinely felt afraid for myself. I know Nightmare said he could manipulate dreams but those emotions felt all too real to have been fabricated.”

“Are you saying that you believe what he said about Ward?” May questioned.

Coulson looked at her with a grime look on his face. “I guess I am.”

May and Simmons just stared at the Director with similar shell-shocked expressions. Trip and Fitz exchanged worried glances before turning back to Coulson.

“So, what's next?” Trip asked.

“I'm having Skye look into it,” was the Director's response.

“Coulson, you can't-” May began before the door to the office opened and Skye entered.

“Skye?” Coulson asked when he saw gloomy look on the young agent's face. “What did you find?”

At first Skye didn't answer. She just walked over to the table and set her laptop down and hooked it up to the room's main monitor.

“It's....AC, it's not good,” Skye said as she opened up the files. “It took a while but I was able to dig up Ward's past and well...it's just not good.”

Everyone remained quiet as Skye went over what she had found. The first thing she brought up was the fact there was very little on Ward when he was a child. Then only thing she could find was small references to him in articles about his parents. Ward hadn't belonged to any type of youth group or anything like that. What she did manage to find wasn't all that pleasant.

As a child, Ward had been treated from numerous injuries. Medical files listed the cause as simple childhood accidents but Skye had managed to located police reports that alleged physical abuse at the hands of Ward's parents. Despite these claims, no charges were ever filled. It also seemed that the bank accounts of investigating officers seemed to grow by many thousands of dollars once the investigations were dropped.

“Officially, there's nothing on Ward till he's twenty-one and entered S.H.I.E.L.D. Academy of Operations after he graduated military school.”

“I'm assuming you found evidence to the contrary?” Coulson asked.

“I found a sealed arrest record from when Ward was sixteen. One night, he ran away from the school and drove back to his family home which he proceeded to set on fire. From what I gathered, he was facing not only arson charges but his brother was pushing for attempted murder charges too. But then the next thing I found, Ward was back at military school.”

“Did you cross reference with the school's files?”

“Yes and their records indicate Ward never returned to the school let any sings that he graduated from there or any place else. DC, there's a five year gap in Ward's history I can't account for. There's nothing till he shows up at the academy,” Skye said as she went through the files. “It's like Ward just disappeared off the face of the Earth.”

Coulson felt his stomach churn. It was just like Nightmare had told them. A gap of five years that no one could explain.

“And it gets worse,” Skye continued, bring up Ward's S.H.I.E.L.D. file. “According to his file, Ward had tagged as a potential recruit at the recommendation of the military's commandant but I found out that had been falsified too. I went the list of all of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s contacts and found that there's never been any communication between S.H.I.E.L.D. and Ward's military school at all.”

The frown on Coulson's face grew. As Skye went through the files, something caught May's attention.

“Go back. Stop,” she stated approaching the screen “There's no psych evaluations. That shouldn't be. Evaluations were mandatory for incoming recruits as part of their enrollment into the academy. Bring up his file when he applied to the Specialist program.”

Skye nodded and brought up the file. After looking a moment, May turned and sighed. “It's missing too. There's no way Ward could have gone on without undergoing an evaluation. And I have a feeling that if we look at his mission reports that it'll be the same thing.”

“Actually, those reports are in the file but look,” Skye spoke up. A second later they were on the screen. “See but take a closer look at the bottom.”

“They're all singed by the same doctor,” Trip said. “That's the same guy John always made sure I saw. He always gave a clean bill too.”

“A doctor who we now know was part of HYDRA,” Coulson adds numbly. “What else?”

“Ward was in the infirmary a lot,” Skye answered, bring up his medical files. “Numerous broken and dislocated bones. Heavy bruises and pulled muscles. He had a reputation as being a high risk taker so no one gave it a second thought but...”

“What?” Coulson asked, not liking the pained look on Skye's face.

“Look,” she said, bring up a set of x-rays.

As team looked at the images of broken bones, Simmons suddenly let out a gasp. “That's not right,” she murmured, looking at an x-ray of Ward's broken forearm. “That's a spiral fracture.”

“So?” Trip asked.

“They're the result of someone twisting the arm. Hard. This says Ward got it falling down,” Simmons clarified in a tight voice. “And these...these other fractures....They point to a long history of abuse.”

“Whenever a mission went bad, Ward was in the infirmary for medical treatment,” Skye nearly choked.

“Missions when Garrett was his SO,” Coulson sighed into his hand.

“Yeah,” was all Skye could say.

Looking back to the screen, Coulson just shook his head. So many red flags which had been missed and he had a sick feeling there was even more dark secrets they hadn't unearthed yet. He noticed that both Trip and Fitz shared the same uncomfortable look on their faces as Skye had. May's features were still schooled but there was something in her eyes that looked like sadness. Simmons meanwhile was pressing her lips together into a thin line and had an unreadable expression on her face.

Feeling a migraine coming on, Coulson reached up and started to rub his temples. “What about his siblings?”

-----)AoS(-----

Thomas Ward was not all pleased to see the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents on the other side of the door when he answered it. As he looked at them, he had a look on his face like he had just smelled something unpleasant under his shoe. Skye could not help but notice the family resemblance. Thomas looked like a younger version of Grant. Even with the beard he had, he looked just like brother when he was locked up in Vault D.

“I have nothing to say to S.H.I.E.L.D.” Thomas coldly stated.

“How did you know we were S.H.I.E.L.D.?” Skye asked.

“Because HYDRA would have blown the door down and came in shooting,” Thomas answered as he crossed his arms. “Now what the hell do you want?”

“We're here to ask you about your brother,” Coulson calmly replied.

“I have nothing to do or say about Christian except that he's psycho.” It wasn't hard to miss the detest that dripped from the name of the eldest Ward sibling. “Now leave me the fuck alone or I'll call the cops on you. Last time I checked, S.H.I.E.L.D. was still a wanted group,” Thomas said as he went to shut the door.

“Christian? No. We're here about Grant.”

“Grant?” Thomas gasped in shock. “You're here about Grant? He's still alive?”

Thomas' reaction took everyone by surprise. The imploring look on the younger Ward's face was almost too much of the agents to take.

“It would be better if we discuss this in private. Would you be willing to come with us back to our base? It's not far.”

Thomas bit the inside of his cheek. “You swear Christian didn't send you?”

After Coulson assured him that that wasn't the case, Thomas agreed to go back to the Playground. As he watched the young Ward follow Skye back to the van where Trip was waiting for them, Coulson could not shake the feeling that the conversation they were about to have was not going to be pleasant.

When they got back to the base, Coulson had Skye take Thomas to his office while he and Trip gathered the rest of the team. No one spoke on the walk to the Director's office. Skye kept stealing quick glances of the young Ward over her shoulder as they made their way down the halls. From her research, Thomas and his sister had gone to great lengths to hide their connections to the Ward family. Thomas had gone as far to change his entire name and assume a new identity altogether. Neither he nor his sister showed any signs of communication with their older brother Christian or their parents. That didn't sit well with the young hacker.

When they got to Coulson's office, Skye offered Thomas a seat but he politely declined. He walked over to the window and let out a tried sigh. “He's dead isn't he?”

“Excuses me?” Skye asked

“Grant. He's dead.”

“What makes you say that?”

Thomas shrugged and kept looking out the window. “I thought about it on the drive. Why else would you go through all the trouble of tracking me down just to talk to me about Grant? You could have just told me he was locked up and left. Heck, you could have told me over the phone. No. My brother's dead and that's all there is to it. He didn't have a choice, you know,” Thomas said looking back to her over his shoulder. “HYDRA and all that but what could he do? After everything our parents and Christian did to him as well as that asshole John Garrett.”

He went back to looking out the window so he didn't see the shocked look on the young agent’s face.

“You know about Garrett?” she asked.

Thomas nodded and turned. “Yes. Grant told me all about him and about you, Agent Skye.”

Skye was speechless. She didn't know which was more surprising, that Ward had apparently been in contact with his younger brother and told him about Garrett or what he had told him about her. Just as Skye was finding her voice, the office door opened and in walked Coulson with May, Trip, Fitz and Simmons in tow. May and Simmons glared at Thomas with icy stares while Fitz offered him a small smile.

“It's nice to me-meet you,” Fitz said, holding out his hand.

“Thank you, Agent Fitz,” Thomas replied, taking his hand.

“You-You know my name?” the young engineer asked in shock.

Thomas nodded. “Yes. My brother told me about you and your teammates Agent May. Agent Simmons,” he said acknowledging the other two agents.

May took a step towards Thomas and crossed her arms. “What do you mean your brother told you about us?”

Just like his brother, Thomas Ward was not so easily intimidated. He looked directly into the Calvary's eye and coolly replied. “Grant would send me a letter every couple of months to let me know he was still alive. He never went into detail about his missions and such but he always made sure to tell me if he was about to go on a dangerous mission and who to contact at S.H.I.E.L.D. if I didn't hear from him after so many months. In the last ones he sent, he told me about this new team he was assigned to and about the others agents he was working with. He descried you all in great detail.”

“And about Garrett too?” Skye asked. Her question earned a puzzled look from Coulson and the others.

“Yes. In his last letter he told me everything about him and HYDRA. That was right after everything that happened with S.H.I.E.L.D. and Captain America in D.C. He told me all about that bastard Garrett and how he felt he owed him Garrett everything. At first I couldn't believe it but as I read his words, it became clearly evident that Garrett had managed to brainwash Grant to the point he obeyed him like a trained dog. It made me sick to my stomach to think of the control this Garrett had over my brother. He then went on to say that there was a final showdown coming and he didn't know what was going to happen to him. The last thing he wrote was that I shouldn't pity him for the choices he made and that he hoped I went on to have a good life.”

There was a sadness to Thomas' voice that no one could miss as he spoke. Despite knowing the fact his brother was a HYDRA mole, it was highly apparent that Thomas Ward still loved his older brother harbored no hostility towards him. When Thomas turned to face him with the same look of determination he had seen numerous times on Grant's face, the Director found himself biting his lower lip.

“Director Coulson, as I told mentioned to Agent Skye, I'm well aware that the reason you wanted to speak to me was to inform me that Grant is dead. How and why doesn’t concern me. All I want to know if I'm able to give a proper burial and if I need to take ownership of what possessions he may have left behind.”

After a prolonged moment of silence, Coulson cleared his throat. “Thomas-”

“Tommy, please.”

“Tommy,” he said gesturing to the empty chair Skye had offered him. “I think it would be best if you sit.”

Coulson went and sat behind his desk as Thomas sat down and Skye took the empty chair next to him. May walked over and stood behind Coulson, arms behind her back and her face set in a solemn expression. Trip and Fitz went over and sat down at the small work table while Simmons did not move from her place along the far wall of the office. From her constricted posture, Simmons looked like she was doing all she could to show any sign of feeling or emotion.

“The reason I, we, wanted to speak to you about Grant is, well....Recently we've come across some information that his home life may not have been all that ideal.

A hollowed scuff escaped Thomas' throat. “Ideal? It was a living hell.”

-----)AoS(-----

Skye trade anxious looks with her fellow agents and then looked over to Coulson who gave her subtle nod.

“Tommy, can you elaborate by what you mean by living hell exactly?” Skye asked, receiving a sigh in return from the young man.

The deflated look that appeared on his face had Coulson biting his lip in apprehension. He was greatly unsure if he really wanted to hear what the young man had to say.

For almost an hour, the team listened in silence as Tommy recounted life growing up in the Ward household. He didn't leave out a single detail. The details were hard to hear and was exactly like what Nightmare had told them. Christian hated his younger sibling but he hated Tommy with a burning passion and tormented him without mercy. He told them about the well and other times when he nearly died. Grant would try to protect him from Christian’s wrath but it wasn't always successful. Skye gasped when Tommy repeated what Grant had told her back in Provenience, how Christian would make Grant beat up their little brother. Then there were their parents. Mr. Ward handed out harsh physical punishments for the smallest mistake. Mrs. Ward's favoritism of her youngest son was the root of Christian's hatred of him. In private she also was found of drinking and pills which helped fuel her unexpected mood swings and bouts of depression which the older Ward children found themselves in the cross-hairs of. Any member of the household staff who voiced their concerns was gone and replaced the next day.

“After Grant was sent away, Christian was becoming more and more violent towards my sister and myself. One day, I saw him deliberately shove her down the stairs. She survived somehow but ended up with a broken arm and a couple of bruised ribs. Later, Christian shoved me down and held a screwdriver to my neck and threatened to stab me if I ever told on him. I never did but my sister did.”

“Grant,” Skye said.

Tommy nodded. “She wrote to him and told him what had happened. I can assure you that either of us expected Grant to run away and try to burn our house down. We both knew he meant to kill Christian and I won't lie and say there wasn't a part of me that was disappointed that he failed. The last time I saw him was when he was looking through the window of that police car before it drove off. I didn't hear from him until years later after he became a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and he started writing to me. But he never came to see me. In the end, Grant may not have been a good man but he was still my brother, Director Coulson. I know he hurt you and your team but you need to let it go. There was no way you could have known about this or about how Garrett twisted him into his personal pawn. Grant made his own choices and I've accepted that.”

As he finished, Tommy's gazed was focused on the floor but they could easily see the pain and sadness behind his eyes. Trip came over and handed him a glass of water for his throat which had started to turn raw from talking for so long. After he had finished, he sat the empty glass on the table and looked over to Coulson.

“Tommy, thank you for sharing this with us. Unfortunately it only collaborates what he had been told by another party. And it makes what I have to tell you now even worse. Grant...Grant is still alive. At least, I still think so.”

Tommy's face slowly paled as he took in the Director's words. “Wha-What do you mean at least you think so?”

Slowly and with a bitter taste in his mouth, Coulson told Tommy how his brother had been their prisoner for all those months and how they tortured him for intel regarding HYDRA. As he talked, it didn't go unnoticed by Skye or any of the others how Tommy's knuckles turned white as he clenched the arms of the chair.

“And you handed him over to Christian?” Thomas gasped in horror after hearing about the deal Coulson had made with his older brother.

“Yes,” was Coulson's response.

What followed next was a long and uncomfortable period of silence. Coulson shifted uncomfortably in his seat while Skye and the other remained as still as statues. Most of the agents in the room were expecting Tommy to lash out at Coulson and them for their treatment of his brother. May must have as she moved to position herself between him and the Director. Instead, Tommy just sat there, his gaze focused on a point on the wall opposite him. Coulson was just about to address Tommy when the young man suddenly pushed himself out of his chair and looked down at him with a long cold look. The Director braced himself for the severe verbal assault they had expected but none ever came.

“Agent Skye, will you be as so kind as to take me home now?”

“Sure.”

Tommy turned and made his way past the other agents to the door with Skye following behind him. When he reached the door he stopped and turned back to Director Coulson. “Christian will not honor the deal you made with him. He will stab you in the back without hesitation or mercy. Just as you did to Grant. Remember that.”

Without another word, Thomas Ward turned and walked out of the Director's office.

---Bonus Scene---

The ride with Thomas had been uncomfortable quietly. Skye kept her focus on the road while Thomas just looked out the window, lost in thought. She had a good idea what was running through his mind, images of Grant helpless at Christian’s mercy. When they arrived, she escorted Thomas inside and did a sweep, just in case Christian or HYDRA had been watching him as well and saw him go off earlier with the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents.

After finding nothing amiss, the young agent timidly say goodbye and was on her way out when she heard Thomas calling out her name. She turned and saw he was looking at her with reflective look in his eyes.

“I just wanted to say that you're exactly how Grant descried you in his letters. Strong and beautiful but also a great sense of compassion.”

Skye felt like she had just been hit in the stomach by Thor's hammer. She thanked Thomas and left. When she got back from taking Thomas home, the sickly feeling in her stomach had not passed. Instead it only got worse. Hearing those words had brought up emotions the young hacker had locked away and tried to forget had even existed.

When she got back, Skye made a beeline straight to Coulson's office. Skye found the man alone, sitting at his desk with his hands on his face. He looked up when he heard her enter but didn't say anything. There things she wanted to say to him but Skye found she couldn't say them. Instead they looked at each other in silence. Their eyes conveyed their feelings and thoughts which inevitable led them to the same question in the end.

“What have we done?” Sky asked Coulson.

They had condemned Grant Ward to death. That's what they had done.

Chapter Text

“They'll be landing in couple of minutes.”

Coulson looked up to see May standing in the door way with a grim look on her face. He had been so engrossed with paper work that he didn't hear the Specialist enter his office. However his brain desperately needed the distraction of mindless busywork.

“Alright,” the Director said as he put his pen down and got up. “Any new develops?”

May shook her head and Coulson felt the knot in his stomach tighten. Following May out into the hall, they two of them made their way through the Playground’s to the hanger. The last message they got from the team hadn't been good. The extraction had been going as planned but they got found out and a fierce gun battle broke out. Somehow they were still able to obtain their objective and make it out alive but by the skin of their teeth. According to Simmons, just about every member of the interaction team got wounded. Then she dropped a bombshell and stated that one agent had received life threatening wounds and that they need a med team on standby and get the medical facility prepped. When Coulson asked who the injured agent was, he felt his stomach drop as Simmons told them who it was.

“Has Skye been told?” May asked as they neared the hanger.

Coulson felt the knot tightened more. “No. I thought it best given the situation.”

Even though May didn't say thing, Coulson knew what her response was. He knew he most likely made a bad decision but he wanted to spare Skye any unnecessary trauma especially given her current condition.

“She won't be pleased,” May commented as they entered the hanger.

“I know.”

The Quinjet had already landed by the time they reached the hanger. They saw Trip standing at the foot of the ramp, clutching his side as he spoke with another agent.

“Trip,” Coulson called out as he and May hurried over.

“Hey, Boss,” the agent said with a grimace. “Don't worry; it's just a flesh wound.”

“Are you alright?” the Director asked, ignoring the man's attempt at humor.

Trip nodded. “Just a little banged up but otherwise I'm fine.”

“You've got a swollen eye, bruised knuckles and a knife wound to your side. I don't think you're fine at all,” May countered with a stern expression.

“Yeah well,” Trip shrugged, winching a little as he shrugged his shoulders.

May rolled her eyes. “And possibly a dislocated shoulder to go along with it.”

“At least you're safe now,” Coulson said, putting a hand on the man's shoulder. “And how is...?”

Trip's expression turned gloomy. “Bad. Real bad. It was touch and go there for a while. Simmons wasn't sure if she could get him stabilized long enough to make it back. The ramp was barley down before she was getting him down and to the infirmary. Has Skye been told yet?”

Coulson shook his head.

“You know she isn't going to be happy when she finds out.”

“I've already told him that,” May stated.

“I know. I know,” Coulson sighed as he rubbed his forehead, “but given her current state the last thing she needs to do is worry. That's why I made sure she was preoccupied until we know anything for certain.”

May and Trip shared similar looks of uncertainty with one another before looking back to the Director.

“And what about...?” Trip put to Coulson, not finishing the question.

“Fitz is taking care of it,” Coulson answered, knowing exactly what Trip was asking.

“Then let's go find Simmons,” May said.

The Director and two S.H.I.E.L.D. agents left the hanger all fearful of what they might shortly come upon. As they came to the infirmary, they could see Simmons and the medical team converging around the bed closet to the infirmary window. The three of them stood outside and watched as Simmons and the team worked without interruption. After what seemed like an eternity, the medical team stepped away from the bed and started to leave the room. Simmons caught sight of them through the window with looks of great apprehension etched across their faces and made her way to out to talk to them.

“He's stable,” she began without preamble. “He's sustained several cracked ribs, a broken nose, knife wounds to the upper arms and lower chest and quite possibly a concussion. He also sustained several bullets wounds to the chest. Most were clean shots but we did have to dig one out of his shoulder. He's lucky. One missed his heart but just barely.”

An unsettling silence followed next. Simmons' words felt like a punch to the gut delivered by the Hulk. The silence was soon broken by the sound of May's phone going off. She stepped off to the side as she answered it.

“Will he make it?” Trip asked.

“He lost a decent amount of blood. The next twenty-four hours are going to be crucial.”

Coulson let out a deep sigh as he covered his face with his hand. This wasn't good. “Is he awake?”

Simmons nodded. “We have to wait to see if he does have a concussion we can allow him to sleep. For the time being, we've put he's on a regiment of pain killers.”

“We've got a situation,” May exclaimed as she turned and face the others.

“What?” Coulson asked.

“Skye's on her way down.”

---)AOS(---

“Crap. Damn.” Coulson and Trip exclaimed at the same time.

“Why is that...oh no. You didn't tell her?” Simmons asked them in disbelief.

Before anyone could say another word, a loud angry voice echoed down the hall. “Coulson!”

With great trepidation, Coulson turned and was meet with the sight of a fuming Skye making her way straight towards him. Out of the corner of his eye he could see May and the other two take a step back. The next thing Coulson knew he had a finger right in his face.

“What the hell is wrong with you, Coulson?” she all but yelled in the Director's face. “You have no right to keep this from me. I deserved to know the truth you asshole! Why the hell didn't you tell me?”

“I wanted to keep you safe,” Coulson answered with all honest. “You're in a delicate condition right now and I didn't want to you and have all that stress do something harmful or worse . Please believe me, Skye, I don't want to see anything bad to happen to you. Especially now. I care too much about you to see you suffer. You do understand don't you?”

Skye's response was a heavy scowl. After a period of heavy glaring, her face softened but the others could see there was still an intensity in her eyes. “How is he?”

Simmons stepped forward and informed her of the situation. They all could see Skye tense up as she listed to the details. No sooner had Simmons finished that Skye turned back to Coulson.

“I want to see him. Now.”

Realizing it was a lost battle, Coulson looked to Simmons and nodded. She then motioned for Skye to follow her.

“He's going to be groggy so try to-” the rest of her sentence got cut off as Skye hurried past her and made a beeline to the bed that had been the center of activity.

Once she was a the bed, she huffed and crossed her arms. “You idiot. Don't you know the whole point of a mission is to avoid getting shot?”

“No. I must have missed that day,” Grant Ward mumbled as he tried to sit up in bed.

“Don't try to move,” Simmons instructed as she and the others made their way over. “You need to try to lie still so you don't cause yourself pain.

“Then he shouldn't have been an idiot and gotten himself shoot,” Skye vexed giving Ward a slap on the shoulder which made him hiss.

“It’s not like I intentionally tried to get myself shot,” Ward quipped.

“It’s true,” Trip spoke up. “We'd just finished when suddenly busted open and the next thing we knew, we were being shot at. We took cover and returned fire but they outnumbered us, big time. We got pinned and we wouldn't have made it if it wasn’t for Ward.”

As Trip spoke, Skye pressed her lips together as she looked from him to Ward and back again. “And let me guess, Robot here, told you make a break for it while he popped up and acted as the human target.”

Trip chewed his lip and tried to avoid Skye's gaze. “Well....”

With a huff, Skye threw her hands up. She gave Ward a death glare worthy of a basilisk which made the agent squirm in his bed. When Trip let out small chuckle at the sight, Skye turned her gaze on him and he instantly froze. Just as she was about to address Coulson, a loud voice

“Daddy!”

All heads turned to the doorway and were met with the sight of a worried Fitz holding the hand of a distraught looking little girl who her brown hair done up in two pony tails.

“I'm sorry, I tried my best to keep her preoccupied but she got away from me and headed this way,” Fitz explained as he did his best to hang onto the child.

“Hi, Princess,” Grant as he pushed himself up, wrenching in pain. “Come give Daddy a hug.”

The little girl let go of Fitz and flew right toward Ward. Skye put her arm out to stop her. She put her hands on the girls' shoulders and crouched down so she could look into her chocolate brown eyes. “Don't squeeze him too hard, Eliza.”

“Yes, Mommy,” Eliza said with a nod. As soon as Skye let her go, she was wrapping her arms around Ward's neck and burying her face in the nook of his neck.

Despite the pain it caused, Ward leaned in a placed a kiss to the top of his daughter’s head and hugged her for all it was worth. Looking up, he saw his wife's expression soften as she watched the two people she loved the most embrace. He knew that as soon as Fitz left with their daughter that she was going to lay into him and tell him that he can't keep acting so recklessly when he has a family to come back to. Then once she was done yelling at him, Skye would slap him up against the head then hug him herself. Looking over to his wife, he could not help but smile as his eyes took in the bump that had become more prominent in the last month. It would be long before Eliza had a little sister or brother. Their daughter couldn't wait for her new sibling to arrive.

Ward knew it had been a hastily made decision to act as a moving target but it was his job. He was an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. and he was more than willing to put his life on the line for his teammates. Still, Ward knew that his responsibilities as a husband and farther came first. Especially since they had been told by Simmons needed to avoid stress due to her pregnancy. He didn't want to do anything to cause her pain and suffering.

Closing his eyes Ward buried his face in his daughter’s hair and breathed deep. There were no words to describe how happy he was at that very moment.

---)AOS(---

Grant woke-up slowly, let out a low groan. He had a splitting headache that made him keep his eye shut. Slowly, his eyes flickered opened but everything was blurry and he couldn’t tell where he was.
Gant tried to move but he found he couldn’t move his arms or legs. He struggled but it did no good. Finally, his vision came into focus and Grant found himself tied secured to a chair. Looking around he saw that he was in a large and abandoned warehouse. For a moment Grant had no idea what had happened but then he sadly realized the truth.

It had been a dream. None of it had been real. He had no family. No Team. No Skye.

Ward licked his chap lips as his mind recalled what had happened once the van doors had closed and the transport left the base.

He sat in total silence, not moving just staring at the floor. It would haven all too easy to escape the cuffs and take the guards out but he didn’t do it. Why should he? He nothing left to live for. His former team wanted him dead and Skye loathed to even look at him. Going to Tommy or his sister was not an option because he was positive Christian would go after them if he had even the tiniest indication he was with one of them. Yes he could have made it to one of his secret drop boxes and started a new life with a new identity but it would have been a hallowed existence. Without Skye, life had no meaning.

So he just sat there till the van came to a halt and the doors opened to reveal a smug looking Christian standing outside.

“Hello, Grant,” Christian said as Grant was shoved out of the van.

Grant didn’t respond which earned him a punch to the stomach. He winched in pain as he fell to his knees but was able to keep from falling completely onto the floor. The Senator just laughed.

“My little brother, the big bad HYDRA agent,” Christian said as he circled Grant. “Do you know how much trouble you’ve caused me? I didn’t really care when I heard you had disappeared from the juvenile center. Truthfully, I thought it was father’s doing. Then then you showed up after all those years and as an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. I was beyond mad to see you were still alive but I was able to use it to my advantage. Everything was fine until you had to go and tell the whole country you were in HYDRA. That was not good, Grant”

There was the sound of something being swung through the air and Grant felt something heavy and metal coming into contact with his back. He fell onto the floor but he didn’t cry out in pain. Turing his head, he could see his brother holding a piece of pipe.

“Of course I’ve been able to use it to my advantage,” Christian continued. “Did you know my polls have gone up since I pledged to bring you in? Not to mention my promise to go after S.H.I.E.L.D. for that attack on the U.N? However, you/’ve become too big a liability for me. People might start to ask questions about how and when you joined HYDRA and they might start digging through our family’s history.”

“Then finish it,” Grant whispered.

“Oh, I will,” Christian quietly assured him as he crouched down and lifted Grant’s face up by the chin. “I’m going to kill, Grant. After you’re dead, there be no one to threaten my reputation. But I’m not going to kill you now. You can still be of some use to me. Like telling me everything you know about Phil Coulson and S.H.I.E.L.D. for example. Then after I bring Coulson and his organization down, I’ll kill you. Of course, I’ll tell the authorities that you broke into my home to kill me and how during the ensuring struggle, I killed you in self-defense. I’ll be hailed as a hero.”

Letting go, Christian stood up and motioned to the guards. Two approached and picked Grant up off the ground by the arms.

“Until then my brother, you’ll be stating here for the time being. I do have other matter to attend to but rest assured I’ll be back to have another nice little chat with you soon. Take him away.”

That had been a week ago or so Grant thought. He had lost track of the days and wasn’t sure how long his brother had had him locked up. All he knew was that his brother kept him alive but just barely. Their “little chats” always ended with him receiving a new injury of some kind but nothing that would kill him. No, his brother was true to his word that he would keep him alive as long as he was useful to him and his personal agenda.

Now, as he sat tied to his chair, Grant felt his eyelids become heavy with fatigued and he fought to keep them open. He didn’t want to fall back asleep. Despite his efforts, it was a losing battle and he reluctantly allowed them to close. His last conscious thought was a silent plead to not have any dreams. To Grant, dreams where he had not only Skye but a family of his own were not happy dreams. They were nightmares.

 

---Bonus Scene---

Senator Christian Ward smiled as he hung up on his wife and dropped his phone on the seat next to him
He was looking forward to spending a nice relaxing weekend away from his wife with his girlfriend at his family’s summer house. Once refreshed, he planned on sending Talbot to bring Coulson and S.H.I.E.L.D. down once and for all. It wouldn’t be too long after that that he would personally put a bullet in Grant’s skull and finally be ride of his embarrassment of a brother once and for all.

With Coulson and Grant were out of the picture, he and his allies could focus on the Avengers and Project ULTRON. Then once the Avengers were taken care of, the path to the White House for him and Ross would be clear of all obstacles. Vice President Ward had a nice ring to it and President Ward had an even better sound to it.

Christian was brought out of his musings when the SUV came to stop.

“We’re here, Senator,” his driver said.

“Thank you, Erick,” Christian said looking out the tinted window at the summer house. “I’ll expect you here usual time Sunday afternoon.”

“Oh, I’m afraid that won’t be possible, Senator.” Erick replied.

Before Christian could say anything, the car door swung opened and a hand grabbed him by his shirt and yanked him out of his seat. The next thing the Senator knew he was on the ground and tumbling down the small embankment along the driveway. He landed flat on his front, slightly disoriented. When he managed to push himself up, he saw his security detail lying dead on the ground and a small army of soldiers in black technical gear standing next to his vehicle.

“What the….Who the hell are you?”

A man dressed in a matching grey suit and small black glasses came around from the other side of the SUV and looked down at Christian with a cheerful yet menacing smile on his face.

“Hello, Senator Ward. My name is Daniel Whitehall. I think it’s time we had a little chat.

Chapter Text

Thursday…

For being mid-afternoon on a Thursday, the coffee shop was fairly busy. Some patrons sat and were talking with friends as they sipped their drinks while a few sat by themselves, reading alone or typing away on their laptops. Sitting at one of the tables was Maria Hill and across from her was a crestfallen looking Phil Coulson. They had been meeting every so often the past few months so they could catch up and exchange intel they came across they thought the other could use.

“So those symbols are a map?” Maria asked after Coulson had just finished telling her about their experience with Sebastian Derik. His words just reminded her how much she hated T.A.H.I.T.I. and wished Fury had never order it used on Coulson.

“Yes but a map to why exactly I can’t say,” Coulson explained. “I’m having one of the Koenings compare the symbols to geographic features around the globe to see if they match up with anything. Of course who’s to say it a map of anything here on Earth? It could be a map of the moon for all I know.”

“If you want, I can show the symbols to Thor and see if it’s Asgardian or something else he’s familiar with.”

“No cause then it might get back to Sif and she might accidently let it slip she knows I’m alive.”

Maria just nodded and took a drink of her ice mocha. Personally, she thought Coulson’s martyr act was getting really old. He still thought it necessary that the Avengers still believed that he was dead. Maria thought the lie had well outlived its usefulness. Honestly, how long did Phil think he could go on rebuilding S.H.I.E.L.D. and stay under the radar? It was a miracle that Phil had made it this long without turning up on Stark’s computers.

“You can’t stay hidden forever, Phil. What happens if you and your team come across the Avengers during a confrontation with HYDRA or some other crisis? How are you going to explain your apparent miraculous resurrection to them?”

Coulson just looked away. “I can’t worry about that now.”

“You know you don’t have to go on alone,” Hill told him. “Stark would be more than happy to help you out. He might even let you guys set up base in the tower.”

Coulson just shook his head. “I know but with everything he and the others have gone through with Ross, the last thing they need is me walking through the doors and asking everyone how it’s going. If Stark didn’t blast me right there or Thor whack me with his hammer I would either get shot at by Barton or Romanov or hit in the face by Roger’s shield.”

“Or smashed into the floor like Loki by Banner,” Hill added.

“True.”

“So, the whole team now knows about you and the effects of the T.A.H.I.T.I procedure?” Maria asked changing topics.

“Yes and I can honestly say that it’s not sitting well with many of them. Mackenzie looks at me with disgust, a sentiment that a number of other agents share. Then there are the ones who look at me and wonder how long before I snap and end up like Derik. I know realistically all this was going to come out at some point but I just whished it didn’t have to happen this way,” Coulson replied as he took a drink of his coffee. “I can feel their eyes on me when I enter a room or walk down the hall; all of them wondering how long before I turn into a monster.”

“Stark and Banner-”

“Are not to know,” Phil interjected. “This is my problem, not there’s.”

“So what are you going to do now?” Hill asked.

“Go on protecting the world and fighting HYDRA,” Coulson answered. “Just go on like we’ve been doing but right now I’ve got other things to worry about which is the reason I asked you here.”

From his tone and the way his finger was nervously tapping away on the table, Hill could tell whatever it was Coulson wanted to talk about was something bad.

“It’s about Ward,” Coulson began, taking a drink of his coffee. “He….The truth is….”

“Just say it, Coulson,” Hill told him.

“Ward was a victim and we screwed him over big time.”

Coulson went to tell Maria the truth he and his team had learned about Ward. He told her of the team’s dreams and their encounter with Nightmare. Then about their conflicting feelings in the following five days leading up to their confrontation with Thomas Ward. Maria sat in silence as she took in everything Coulson said, not interrupting the man to ask questions. After everything she had seen, an inter-demission being who manipulated dreams and nightmares for his own ends seemed perfectly normal.

When Coulson finished, the man looked completely deflated. He just sat there, tapping his finger on the table as Hill took in everything he told her. It made her sick to her stomach. She had been all too willing to write Ward off as a common HYDRA mole after the uprising.

“Phil, you couldn’t have known about Ward’s past,” Maria told him, hoping to comfort the man. “There was never any reason to-”

“Yes there was,” Coulson cut her off. “We should have gone through this file after he was taken in. Double and triple checked ever piece of information in it then dissect every moment of his relationship with Garrett. Maybe if we’d done that, we could have learned the truth sooner and gotten him the help he needed.”

“But it still wouldn’t change the fact he killed for Garrett.”

Hearing Maria bring up the elephant in the room caused Phil’s stomach to turn over. It was true Ward had killed Hand, Koenig and who knows how many others for John Garrett. Part of him would always hate him for that.

“So what are you going to do now?”

“Try to find Ward and save him.”

“Do you think he’s even still alive?”

Coulson chewed his lip for a moment before answering. “Christian hasn’t made any announcement about capturing Grant I’m leaning towards yes. The trouble is, we have no idea where Christian could he holding Ward and we have no idea where Christian is. Skye hasn’t been able to track his down and when I and Morris to his office under the pretense of being lobbyists, his chief of staff said he was out of the office but didn’t say when he was going to be back.”

Maria looked away for a moment. “You’re not going to like what I’m about to tell you,” she said uneasily. “Stark’s been having me gather intel on the Senator. He’s worried.”

“Why would Stark be worried about Christian Ward?” the Director asked.

“Ward has been seen meeting with Thaddeus Ross and other influential figures who, shall we say, share the same anti- Avengers views. That’s got Stark all panicked and worked up. He’s afraid they’re up to something. Something that the Avengers will get dragged into and have to deal with.”

“Oh,” Coulson replied. Stark could be paranoid and see conspiracies everywhere he looked but more than once his hunches have unfortunately turned out to be true. That was all he needed right now. Having the knowledge that Christian could be plotting something against the Avengers.

“Crap. I’ve got to get back. Maria said looking at her phone. “Stark will start to think to think I’m up to something if I’m late.”

“I understand,” Coulson said as Hill and got up and threw her empty cup away in a nearby recycle bin. “Thanks for making tome for me, Maria.”

“What are former espionage coworkers for?” she asked with a small smile as she picked up her drink.

Coulson held up his latté and saluted her. He would wait a few minutes before making his own exit. For now, he watched as Maria headed towards the door. Suddenly she stopped, turned and came straight back to the table causing Coulson to furrow his brow in confusion.

“The Wards have a cabin up in the woods. It’s something only the family and a few select others know about. I hear the good Senator likes to go up there on weekends to spend some alone time with his mistress.”

“Does he now?”

---)AOS(---

Friday afternoon…

Ward lay on the cold cement floor, a small pool of blood forming from the gash on his forehead. He didn’t know how long he had been lying there. A few minutes maybe? An hour? A day? An entire week? Time no longer had any meaning to him. Existence was nothing but unending pain and darkness. It was a punishment he knew he deserves which is why he no longer tried to convince himself otherwise.

A soring twinge of pain caused Ward to let out a stifled groan. Slowly, he started to remember what had caused him to be lying there on the ground. Armed goons had dragged him in to the room shirtless and threw him into the rickety chair before they tied his feet to the chair and his hands to the back of the chair. The two goons didn’t waste any time beating the hell out of him. They used their fist, brass knuckles and what could have been a metal bat or pole. By that pint, his left eye was black and swollen. Discolored bruises covered his chest and arms. Then they untied him. His muscles were so weak that he slid out of the chair and onto the floor where they stared to kick him with their feet along with punching him. He was soon bleeding from numerous wounds.

In the back of his mind, he could recall far worse beatings endured on his service to S.H.I.E.L.D. or HYDRA if he had to be honest. Everything had been for HYDRA but Ward would be the first to admit that everything had been for Garett. The man he thought was his savior and was willing to do anything for. Even hurt the people he started to think of as family.

A sharp kick to the stomach ended his ruminations. Letting out a deep gran, Ward curled up on his side.

“That’s enough,” a voice called out.

The two goons backed off and Ward heard footsteps coming towards him. After they came to stop, he felt a hand grabbing him by his hair and pulling his face up.

“Hello, brother dear,” Christian Ward said with sickly sweet smile as he crotched down to look his brother in the face.

Ward didn’t answer.

“You’re not looking too well, Grant,” Christian mocked as he let go of Ward’s hair. Smiling as he pushed himself up, Christian motioned to his pair of hired goons. The two came over and pulled Ward up off the floor and shoved him back into the chair. Despite the dizziness and black spots he was seeing, Ward was able to focus his eyes on his older brother who was staring down at him. A moment later, one of the goons brought a chair over and Christian sat down.

“You know, Grant, for what it’s worth, I sorry things turned out the way they did,” the Senator began in tone that sounded honest. “We grew up in hell. A domineering abusive father who cared more for his political position and power. A bipolar alcoholic pill popping mother who favored her precious baby boy over her other children. Hell, if we had been the typical middle class family they would have taken us away from those two years ago. But we weren’t middle class were we? No. We were the Wards.”

Christian got up and started to circle Grant.

“The ideal political family. Loving parents and the perfect children. I can even remember someone saying we could have been the next Kennedys. In order to survive, we had to be those perfect children. I realized that a long time ago and that’s how I was able to survive but you didn’t. No. Instead you tried to help shield Tommy and Rose both our parents and me. That was mistake!” Christian screamed as he hit Grant in the face. “If you had just accepted that truth, everything would have been fine. But you never learned, did you? You just kept causing trouble. And then you had to go and ruin almost everything that night you tried to kill me. I didn’t much care about you burning down the house but killing me….”

Grant received a blow to the back of the head.

“You know, I actually thought that dad was the one behind your whole disappearing from juvie. It wasn’t that improvable. When dad wanted something gone, it was gone. Dad was good at getting rid of loose ends which is what you are Grant. A loose end. Then and now.”

Christian came to a stop before Grant and put his hands in his pocket. Grant managed to tilt his head up and looked at his brother. Gathering up what strength he had, Grant opened his mouth and spoke for the first time in days.

“Then what do you want from me?” Grant asked in a weak but form voice.

“For the moment, nothing,” Christian answered. “I don’t need you to supply me with information about HYDRA or your little friend Coulson. In time, I’ll have General Talbot take care of Coulson and then I’ll be hailed as the hero who brought an end to S.H.I.E.L.D. My popularity will skyrocket. It won’t be long before I’m addressed as Mister President."

Grant looked at Christian and shook his head. “Won’t work…Coulson-”

“Will be dead soon enough,” Christian’s smile grew dark. “I’m going to kill you. Not now but in a few weeks. Then, it’ll happen just I told you. I’ll come home from the office and suddenly be attacked by you. We’ll fight each other and then in the heat of the battle I managed to grab hold of your gun and shoot you. The press will eat it up. Senator kills terrorist brother who tried to kill him. Who won’t believe me?”

As Christian continued to leer at him, Grant tilted his head back and spat a mouthful of blood and spite in his brother’s face.

“Bastard!” Christian shouted as he slapped his younger brother across the face with enough force to knock him back onto the floor.

The goons rushed over and managed to get a kick in before the Senator held up his hand.

“Stop! Roll him over.”

When Grant was on his back, Christian leaned down and looked at his brother mercilessly. “You think you’re something, don’t you, Grant? Well you’re not. All you are is a loose end which should have been taken care of years ago. I’m not going to make the same mistake as dad. I will see you dead. You can count on that. But not right. I’m going to make you wait for the end.”

Christian stood up and gave Ward a final look of loathing before he turned and walked out of the room. The two goons followed after, leaving Grant on the floor. When the door closed, Grant somehow found the strength to push himself up against the chair.

“I hope after I’m dead, Coulson kills you himself,” he muttered with hope.

“Get him back in his cell and get the doctor to check him out. I’m counting on you to make sure he stays alive,” Christian ordered his goons as they walked down the hall. “I want him alive before I kill him.”

“Yes, Senator,” the lead goon answered’

“And make sure your men kept this location secured. Only your team members and the doctor are allowed in and out.”

“Yes, Sir,” the second goon said.

The three of them continued walking until they reached the outside of the old Maxon Aircraft Manufacture plant. The Senator’s SUV was there waiting for him. One of his body guards got out and held the door open for him.

“I’ll be gone all weekend. Don’t call me unless it’s a dire situation. Do you understand?”

The head goon nodded. “Don’t worry, Senator Ward. Everything will be the same when you get back.”

“Monday, I have several meetings I need to attend so I won’t be back here for a few days. I want a daily report from you until you hear from directly. Understand.”

“Yes, Senator.”

Without another word, Christian got in the vehicle and his body guard shut the door. Once the bodyguard got in on the other side, the SUV drove off.

---)AOS(---

Sunday…

“Come now Senator, must you be so stubborn?” Daniel Whitehall asked shaking his head at Christian Ward.

The elder Ward sat in a chair in the middle of the living room of his family’s cabin. Behind him were two armed HYDRA agents. He was bleeding from a deep bruise on his forehead and his lip had been split. He had been interrogated by Whitehall who wanted to know where Grant was being held and what information if any he had told his older brother about HYDRA. Despite the rough beatings he had received from Whitehall’s goons, Christian didn’t break.

“It’s easy. All you have to do is comply-”

“Go to Hell you Nazi bastard,” Christian spat.

Whitehall pursed his lips together trying to figure out what to do next. He hadn’t brought the proper equipment to put the Senator through the Faust method and taking the man back to his headquarters for treatment wasn’t an option either. There wasn’t enough time to create a proper cover story to explain Senator Ward’s prolonged absence and things were progression with his plans with the Obelisk that he wanted to get back to. Plus, he didn’t want to leave Zabo unsupervised for a long period of time. There was something slightly off with that man. He supposed he could attach a HYDRA control device on him like he had done with Raina but he assumed it wouldn’t be as motivating for the elder Ward as it had been for the young lady.

“First of all,” Whitehall began, “HYDRA has nothing to do with Nazis. Yes, our founder was a Nazi as was I, Arnim Zola and others but we did not share their doctrine and beliefs. HYDRA was welcomed anyone, male or female, German, Jew or Slav into their ranks. Second,” he slapped Christian hard on the face, “I’m not a bastard.”

Christian’s response was to spit at Whitehall which landed on the man’s suite. Taking out his handkerchief, Whitehall calmly wiped the mess away and walked over to the nearby liquor cabinet “You know, I relay get involved in things like this,” he said as he helped himself to a drink. “Usually, I send my associate Mr. Bakshi to deal with people like you. He’s a very capable and loyal right-hand. However there are times when I feel I need to get involved to get the point across such as now. Drink?”

Christian didn’t answer but Whitehall made him one anyway. When he held it out, Christian didn’t take it.

“Come now. I’m not trying to poison you.”

After hesitating for a moment, Christian accepted the drink.

“I believe we could do with a change in scenery.”

Motioning to the two guards, they took hold of the Senator and followed Whitehall out onto the outside deck. Once outside Whitehall had the guards release the Senator. Whitehall walked up to the railing and looked over his shoulder.

“Join me, Senator.”

Seeing that the two HYDRA guards were blocking his way of escape, Christian walked over and stood next to Whitehall.

“It’s lovely,” Whitehall commented looking out at the trees. “It reminds me a place my family and I would visit before the war. World War I to be precise.”

“That’s impossible. That would mean you’re over a 100,” Christian said in disbelief.

A chuckle escaped from Whitehall’s throat. “Nothing is impossible, Senator Ward.”

The two of them lapsed into silence as they enjoyed their drinks and looked out over scenery. Christian was trying to think of a way he could escape. He knew the surrounding woods well and knew of places he could hide. All he would need is the right moment to make a break for it and head straight for the trees. Whitehall had only brought a team of fifteen with him which meant they would be spread out as they looked for him allowing him a chance to evade them with some ease. There was no way the HYDRA agents would be able to keep up with him once they were deep enough in the woods. Once he was sure he had put distance between him and HYDRA, all he would need to do is make it to the highway and flag someone down.

“You must be wondering why we’re so interested in your brother,” Whitehall spoke-up, bringing Christian out of his.

“He’s HYDRA,” Christian responded. “He’s one of you and you want him back in your ranks.”

“I’m afraid you’re wrong. You see, your brother was ultimately loyal to his mentor John Garrett. Garrett was one of HYDRA’s best moles within S.H.I.E.L.D. but he was also a rogue. He wasn’t as much loyal to hydra as he was using its resources to prolong his life. To an extent, we were fine with that. But his resulting death and capture of your brother at the hands of Coulson and S.H.I.E.L.D. did raise concern with a number of HYDRA leaders. Garrett was privy to much of HYDRA’s secrets which he no doubt passed along to his protégé. S.HI.E.LD. as it currently stands, doesn’t present a significant danger to HYDRA’s operations but given time and the right support it can.”

“So you want my brother to see what he’s spilled to Coulson,” Christian concluded. “Makes sense.”

“Yes. Just another loose end that needs to be taken care of. Just like you.”

Christin started to feel dizzy. He felt the glass slip from his hand and hit the deck. His head felt like it was being squeezed in a vice as his vision started to lose focus.

“Wha…What was…in….” that was all Christian was able to get out as before he fell and everything faded to black.

Turning, Whitehall headed back into the cabin as his two soldiers picked up the unconscious man and followed after their superior.

Sometime later, Christian started to come to. He had no idea how long he had been knocked out. His brain was still a little foggy but he able to make out he was standing on the middle of the cabin’s main room, he was holding a gun and his parents were lying on the floor on the floor dead. Each had been shot. Then he saw Whitehall standing off to the side.

“What...What the hell?”

“You shot your parents,” Whitehall answered.

“How…?”

“A simple additive to your drink. It allowed you to become much more compliable. After a couple it took complete affect, you told me where your brother was and then went off on your parents, who Agent 33 brought up earlier about their treatment of you and your siblings growing up. You grew frustrated when they started to justify their actions and so you shot them.”

“You…” Christian aimed the gun right at Whitehall but he could not pull the trigger. Some type of force was keeping him from doing so.

“Before we had our little talk, I made sure to put some precautions in place,” Whitehall explained. “Now, Senator Ward, I want you to take your gun and shoot yourself.”

Christian was determined to not do it but he felt that invisible force trying to force him to carry out Whitehall’s instructions. He struggled with everything he had but soon the gun up at his temple, the trigger pulled back and hiss figure on the trigger. Knowing he didn’t have much time, he made his peace and then turned back and looked Whitehall straight in the eye.

“See you in Hell, you Nazi son of a bitch.”

The gun went off. The next sound was that of Christian Ward’s body falling to ground.

-Bonus Scene-

The Playground, Friday…

When Phil got back to base after leaving the Coffee shop, he went straight to Skye to rely what Hill had told him. It took her only a day but she was able to track down the cabin.

“So the cabin’s on private land that’s in the name of Ward’s grandparents,” Skye explained as she brought up a satellite image of the area. “It’s completely surrounded by woods and about a good hour to hour and a half away from the nearest town.”

“Nice and secluded,” May commented.

“Could Ward be…be there?” Fitz asked.

“Possibly,” Coulson replied. “And even if he’s not, this weekend will offer us our best chance of getting our hands on Christian and make him tell us where Ward is.
The three agents nodded while Simmons remained still. Even with what Thomas had told them, she was still having issues accepting all of Ward’s actions.
Coulson then laid out the plan. Their first step was to secure the cabin and search it before Christian showed up. Once he had arrived, the team would move in. May, Morris and Trip would take out the Senator’s security detail while FitzSimmions jammed communication. Then Coulson and Skye would go for Christian. If Ward was not being kept on the premises, they would bring Christian back to the base and continue their conversation there.

Everything was set.

Then everything changed.

An hour after everyone had filled out of his office, Coulson was connected by Talbot through the special line he had set up for the major after coming to an agreement to assist each other. When Talbot appeared on the screen, Coulson could see right away the colonel didn’t have good news. By the end of their conversation, Coulson felt worse.

For a while Coulson sat in his chair still not fully accepting what he just been told and seen. This completely changed their plans. He called in May to share it with her Talbot’s information and when he had finished, May had a look on her face that told him she was in agreement with his view of the situation. Their plans had now been changed and there was nothing they could do about it. They agreed on what needed to be done next even though it wasn’t going to be good.

Chapter Text

Coulson spent much of the next morning in his office trying to figure out the best way of handling the delicate situation he now found himself in. He had discussed the matter with May and after much debate, they came to a solution.

“You’re sure?” May asked as they made their way down the hall.

“Yes,” Phil answered as they approached the kitchen.

The team was gathered at a large table, talking and enjoying coffee. Coulson cleared his voice to get their attention.

“Bobbie. Mack. I need to see you in my office please.”

The two agents got up and followed after Coulson while May went and sat down at the table with the rest of the team. As they headed back to his office, Phil didn’t know which of them had the harder task.

“So what did you need to see about?” Bobbie asked they walked into the Director’s office.

“About you two and Harley being sent to infiltrate this team by Robert Gonzales,” Phil answered as he closed the door and made his way to his desk.

Bobbie and Mack froze when they heard Phil’s words. They looked at each other for a split second before turning to face Phil who was rummaging through a desk drawer.

“I‘ve to admit, you all were good. The way you both came to after S.H.I.E.L.D. fell, telling me your accounts of escaping HYDRA. Then having Hartley make contact all those months later with that mercenary cover story….How I didn’t see that for the Specialist tactic I’ll never now. I believe this is what Robert sent you to retrieve?” he asked holding up the Tool Box before setting it down on the desk.

“How did you find us out?” Mack asked.

A small smirk broke out on Coulson’s face. “Next time don’t use the same frequency I and other senior agents used to contact Fury to make secret communications. When I learned someone was using that frequency, it was able to follow it to the Iliad. That’s when I knew Robert was still alive. He was the only person on that ship with knowledge of that frequency and explained why neither Koenig nor Talbot was ever able to locate that ship.”

“If you know all that then must know we have nothing to apologize for,” Bobbie replied with certainty. “Fury had allowed S.H.I.E.L.D. to become corrupted by HYDRA and his endless deceptions. Gonzales knew that the only way for S.H.I.E.L.D. to not just survive but truly function properly was by rebuilding it from the ground up and establishing a strict system of checks and balances.”

“Not just gather what scrapes you could get your hands on and led the same way Fury did,” Mack added, crossing his arms. “We need clear level headed leadership and Gonzales promises that.”

“Please just give that,” Bobbie pleaded, pointing to the Tool Box, “to Gonzales. If you corporate with him, he might even give you a spot his council.

“And what if I didn’t take the offer?” Coulson asked them. “I assume I would be told I’m off to a well-earned retirement but end up in some cell while I slowly lose my mind or am just taken out the moment I’m taking away?”

“No….”

Coulson went on. “And what will happen to members who don’t want join up with the new S.H.I.E.L.D. and take orders from Gonzales? Will they get locked away? Handed over to the military in return for political and monetary backing? Or will you just take them out?”

Bobbie looked away. In honesty, the topic had never really been discussed. Their orders had been to infiltrate, gain Coulson’s and his team’s trust, gather intel and retrieve the Tool Box. Gonzales had never stated what would happen to the agents who refused to work under his leadership.

“Well, all of that is a moot point now,” Coulson commented somberly as he put the Tool Box away. “Robert couldn’t use this to rebuild S.H.I.E.L.D. even if he could.”

“What do you mean by that?” Bobbie asked, trying to keep the worry out of her voice.

Coulson looked to the two agents. “Gonzales is dead,” he said simply. “As are members of his council and it appears the majority of the Iliad’s crew. You two are the only ones left.”

The news left Bobbie and Mack speechless. They just stood there, trying to comprehend the words that had just heard.

“That’s...not….You’re lying,” Bobbie declared fervently.

Mack did say anything but from the look on his face, Coulson could tell he was thinking the same thing as Morris. Gonzales had led them in the counter-attack against HYDRA on the day of the Uprising. They took back their ship despite being greatly outnumbered and outgunned. Heck, Gonzales who had sustained a sever leg wound still went head to head with every HYDRA goon that came his way. There was just no way what Coulson had just told them true.

“He can’t be dead. They all can’t be dead.”

“I’m afraid they are and what’s more, I can prove it,” Coulson ruefully said reaching for the small control on the desk and pointing it at the screen on the wall across the room.

Mack and Bobbie turned and watched in stunned silence as they watched HYDRA agents walk about the fallen bodies of their comrades. Bobbie covered her mouth with her hand as a beaten Gonzales was being terrorized by a scarlet cladded HYDRA figure. Moments later the members of Gonzales’ council were brought in by a HYDRA agent who was sporting a large metal scythe where his right hand should have been and were made to kneel on the floor along with Gonzales. They were offered a chance to save their lives to which Gonzales spat in the face of the scarlet garbed figure. With a look to the scythe wielding figure was all it took. A moment later, Gonzales and the others were executed. Coulson turned the video off not long after that moment.

“Where did that video come from?” Bobbie asked trying to keep her voice from crumbling.

“Talbot,” Phil answered. “It was sent to him along with the cardiants for the Iliad. He notified me as soon as he was able to verify its contents. At the moment he’s alerting the families.”

It took everything Bobbie had to keep from breaking down right there. Mack saw the tears in her eyes but she was not allowing them to fall. He knew she wouldn’t allow anyone see her fall victim to her emotion in public. It would be later when she was alone that she would finally allow herself to cry for their fallen comrades. “How did…how did HYDRA even get on…?” she trailed off.

“We don’t know,” Coulson answered, “but because the security system was never activated, it would almost appear like they were invited on.”

For a moment no one spoke. The two former double agents just sat, feeling cold and empty. Coulson pursed his lips together and ruefully taped the surface of his desk with his hand.

“So what happens to us now?” Mack asked in a deflated tone.

“I’m going to get some coffee,” Coulson answered reaching for his favorite Captain America mug and walking to the door. Before he left, he turned back. “You can either still be here when I get back or you’ll have used the time to go get your stuff and leave. Despite everything, I trust you won’t tell anyone where this base is. You also won’t be hunted down. Just take a moment to think of what you could help us do if you stay.”

When Coulson returned some twenty-five minutes later, Bobbie and Mack were still there.

To say the rest of the team didn’t take well to the revaluation that the two agents they had come to trust were double agents sent to betray their trust would be putting it mildly. Hunter screamed at his ex-wife for nearly thirty minuets straight and no one could blame him. Especially when he accused Bobbie of using sex to manipulate him in the past few weeks. Then poor Fritz broke down in tears and locked himself in his room after seeing Mack for the first time after May had told him and the rest of the team the truth. For Skye, Trip and Simmons, it was déjà vu all over again. Once again they had their trust broken. They all shot Mack and Bobbie icy glares as they watched the two make their way with Coulson down the hall.

A few hours later, Coulson called everyone into his office. “Alright, listen up,” he began in his Director’s voice, “I know we’re hurt all hurting and some of us have a few things we would like to get off our chests-”

“A bloody lot more,” Hunter mumbled.

“-but we need to put that all aside for the moment. Right now we need to focus on getting Ward back. We know his brother has him and we need to act before Christian kills him.”

“How do we know Senator Ward hasn’t done that already?” Simmons asked.

“Christian would have staged an attacked and stated he killed Grant in self-defense. Since that hasn’t happened, we can assume he’s still alive.”

He motioned to Skye who brought up a satellite view of the Ward family cabin on the nearby monitor.

“He’s the plan….”

---)AOS(---

With great care, Skye made her way towards the innocent looking cabin. She made her way towards the back entrance while Hunter approached from the front. May came from the side so she could use a large tree to gain access to the second floor of the cabin. Mack meanwhile waited in the Quinjet on the edge of the property.

“So far so good,” Mack’s voice came over the comm. “No sign of any guards or security alarms going off.”

“Which isn’t all that good,” May replied in her typical serious tone.

“Yeah. I mean, if I was a two-timing politician, I would have my goons outside making sure I wasn’t disturbed?” Hunter questioned.

Skye had to agree. She had expected to see bodyguards out patrolling the property but she hadn’t seen anyone. Even if the good Senator Ward had come up here to be alone with his latest mistress, the man would have had some sort of security.

“I’m in position,” May stated. “Everyone else?”

“I’m at the front door,” Hunter answered. “How about you, Skye?”

“Yeah. Just coming up the back steps to the deck. I’m ready.”

“Remember the mission,” came May’s voice on the comm. “Find Christian, take him down and get him the hell back here to base.”

“Right,” Skye said as she got into position.

“Okay everyone, on my mark. 5…4…3 …2…1…go!”
Kicking the door open, Skye entered the cabin, ICER at the ready. Her actions didn’t the draw sounds of commotions or the sudden arrival of armed guards.

‘Something’s defiantly off,’ she thought as she made her way into the living room.

It just took a few more steps past the large leather couch before Skye came across the bodies of Christian and his parents lying in pools of blood.

“Oh god,” Skye cried out, dropping her weapon.

“Skye?” Hunter’s called out, “What’s the-holy shit!” he exclaimed as he entered the living room. “What the crap happened?”

Skye just gave him shrug.

“Hey, May,” Hunter yelled up to the ceiling, “you better get down here. The bloody bastard’s dead.”

Moments later, May was making her way down the stairs. When she reached the bottom, her face broke out in a deep frown when she saw the three bodies.

“HYDRA got to him first,” she said holstering her weapon. “Skye, take a pic and send it to Coulson. He’ll need to inform Talbot. Hunter,” who was looking queasy, “if you’re going to be sick do it outside and radio Mackenzie. Tell him what’s happened but to stay where he is for the moment. Just in case.”
Both agents did as they were told as May took out her phone and contacted Coulson. Once she had taken the photo, Skye sent it when May informed Coulson what had happened.

“Alright,” May began after getting off the phone, “for now we stay put. Coulson wants us to wait for Talbot. We tell him what we know and he’ll take over the investigation.”

“So what? Hunter shrugged. “We just sit around playing Jim Rummy till Talbot shows up?”

“You can but the rest of us have a job to do,” May stated as she knelt down next to Christian’s body. “Gunshot to the head…bullet wound suggests self-inflected but I’m sure he had some help in that.”

Hunter gave her a questioning look. “They brainwashed the Senator into knocking himself off?”

“Right after they had him kill his parents. They were killed at point blank range.”

“Good way of covering their tracks,” Skye surmised. “It goes along with what we know about how HYDRA makes their killings look like accidents and such.”

May stood up and crossed her arms. “They wouldn’t have gone through all this trouble if they were positive that Christian still had Grant. HYDRA obviously wants Ward for something.”

“Maybe they want him for intel on us,” Hunter put forth. “I mean he was a mole on your team for how long?”

A look of worry broke out on Skye’s face. “That’s not good. Especially now that they know Simmons was mole herself-”

“They would want to know everything Ward knows about her and us,” May finished. “And we can’t do anything because we don’t have possible idea where Ward is.”

“Can nothing ever go right for us?” Hunter moaned as he slumped down on the couch. “First I get manipulated with sex by my beast of and ex-wife and now the HYDRA spy you’ll want to save may now be being held by HYDRA. Just peachy.”

Ignoring the ex-mercenary’s groans, Skye took a moment to look around the room. There were no signs that a confrontation had occurred. Everything was neatly arranged and in its proper place. It made her skin crawl slightly at seeing how organized everything was. Yet something was nagging at her. Something that didn’t seem right.

“What is it, Skye,” May asked seeing the brunette’s sweep of the room.

“That,” she answered crossing over to the nearby desk where a small notepad and pencil laid. “Why is this left out when everything else is neatly put away?”

Picking up the pad, Skye looked it over. There was nothing out of the ordinary about the pad but the top. It was torn meaning someone had pulled it off in a hurry. That person had also pressed down hard with the pencil; Skye could see the indentation of what had been jolted down.

“What do you see?” Hunter asked as Skye stared intently at the paper. “The address where Ward is being kept?”

“I think so,” the brunette replied with certainty. Placing the notepad down, Skye took the pencil and started to rub it across the paper. In just a few short seconds an address, street name and building number appeared. She then got on the comm. “Mack, put this address in my search program and tell me what comes up.”

“You got it,” the agent replied. It didn’t take long after Skye gave him the address that Mack was “That address is for an old Maxon Aircraft Manufacture plant. It’s abandoned now but get this; the title belongs to a shell cooperation that traces back to Christian Ward.”

“Ward’s there. Mack get up here now,” Skye ordered before turning to May. “Call Coulson. We can’t wait for Talbot”

May was two steps ahead. “Coulson, change of plans.”

---)AOS(---

It wasn’t long before they were in the Quinjet heading towards D.C. The Maxon plant was located near the capital, ironically not from where the Triskelion had been. During the flight, Skye was becoming more and more tense. She kept praying that they weren’t too late. Finally, Mack was putting the jet down in the empty yard.

“Alright,” May said as they were gathering their gear, “we don’t know what we’re exactly to run into in there. It’s a good bet that Christian left guards but we may also run into HYDRA too. . Don’t kill unless you absolutely need to.”

The other agents acknowledged the order and made their way down the ramp. The four of them got out their weapons and made their way into the main part of the plant. Inside, the only sounds they heard were the echoing of their own footsteps and the creaking sound of old lumber. They head down a nearby hall way and started to examine rooms. Most of the rooms were empty and in different stages of dilapidation. Like at the cabin, they didn’t run into any type of security.

Then they came across a hall that was littered dead bodies of armed guards.

“Damme,” Hunter murmured as they walked among the dead. “Musta been one hell of a shootout.

“Look at this,” Mack called out. He pointed out a back was black and white symbol on the soldier’s gear strap. “This one’s HYDRA.”

“I’ve seen this one before,” May said, rolling a guard onto his back. “He was part of Christian’s security detail.”

Skye could feel her blood chill.

They continued on. Down another corridor they came across the plant’s cafeteria. Six more of Christian’s men as well as two HYDRA soldiers lay dead on the floor in pools of blood. Near the center of the room was a rickety looking chair. One the floor next to it was a piece of pipe along with small pools of dried blood. Skye felt her stomach churn. May didn’t say anything but the grim look on her face spoke for her.

“Hey, got one that's still alive over here,” Hunter suddenly called out. They team rushed over to where he was kneeling down beside one of the HYDRA soldiers. “Looks like he’s been bleedin’ out slowly for a while now but I think he’ll make it.
Maye got down on the other side. “Where’s Grant Ward? Where did HYDRA take him?”

The HYDRA soldier grunted at her through his clenched teeth.

“I don’t have time for this,” Skye shouted. “Tell us where the hell Ward is you sick Nazi scumbag!”

“Skye!” May warned then looked to Mack.

The next thing Skye knew, Mack had taken her by the shoulder and pulled her back from the group.

“You’ll…too…late….You wo-won’t…find him.”

Everyone looked back to the HYDRA soldier. He had managed to sit-up and looking up them smiling. “Gr-Grant Ward….You’ll nev…never….You’ll never save him….”

May stood up. “I hope you like grey walls because you’re going to be seeing them a lot while you’re in our custody. Then we’ll see if you’ll be more inclined to tell us what we want to know.”

The soldier just smiled. “Cu-Cut off…one hea-head…two more will...take its...pl-place….Hail HYDRA….” He then took hold of his left pinky and sickly sound of bone being broken followed. Before anyone could react, white foam was dripping from his mouth and the soldier slumped to the ground.

“Didn’t see that coming,” Hunter muttered.

“Cyanide,” was all May said.

Skye felt like the floor had disappeared beneath her. She just stood there and let Mack try his best to comfort her. Any possible chance they had to find Ward seemed lost now. Christian was dead as well the only person from HYDRA who could have told them what they wanted to know. Without any credible leads they might never learn where Ward might have been taken.

The journey back to base was a silent one. May went up to the cockpit to contact Coulson and inform him what had happened. Skye spent the entire trip just staring at the wall before her. She so wanted to cry, to yell, to hit something but her body was just too overcome with defeat to move.

“Now what?” she ruefully murmured.

==Bonus Scene=

“How is he doing?”

“He’s responding well to the treatments. His wounds should heal without complications.”

Daniel Whitehall looked through the observation window in the room where Grant Ward rested. At the moment a nurse was seeing to one of the IVs Ward was hooked up to and a doctor in a white lab coat was making notes on a chart.

“Do you think it was for the best to retrieve him?” Baskhi asked.

The sound of a phone going off interrupted the two. Whitehall peached into his pocket and took out his phone. “Yes?” he answered.
After a moment, a deep frown broke out on Whitehall’s face. “I see. Yes, this is very unfortunate news…. No, no. That would bring even more attention to the issue….Can it be done? Very well then. Proceed as you see best at the moment. Let me know what happens.”

“Problem, Sir?”

“That was Hale. Talbot knows of Senator Ward’s death,” Whitehall stated, his words laced with venom. “He and his team are already at the cabin. Contact your team and have them abort the scrub mission.”

Baskhi did as he was told. By the time he got off his phone, Whitehall had turned and was looking back at Ward lying unconscious in the bed. “You asked if it was best to retrieve Mr. Ward and the answer is yes He fits all the requirements HYDRA needs.”

“For a new operative?”

“A new asset.”

Chapter Text

A month and a half.

A month and a half and nothing.

No mention in any intercepted chatter. No reference in obtain data files. No discovery in any location raided.

Nothing.

It was like Grant Ward had disappeared off the face of the Earth.

Skye sat huddled in a chair, looking across the empty seat across from her. The empty seat where he use to sit as they played Battle Ships. She didn’t know exactly what to feel. At times she wanted to cry. Other times she wanted to scream and hit things. Then there were the times when her anger made her wonder why she should really care. Ward had been a spy. HYDRA’s mole that pretended to be their friend and trusted teammate. He was back with his true allegiances had been all along. Why should the team even give him a second thought? The only thing that mattered was making sure they had a clear shoot so they could but a bullet right in the middle of his forehead.

The forehead the furrowed ever so slightly when she made some pop culture reference he never caught.

Sighing, Skye turned and looked vacantly off onto space. So much had happened in the last few months.

Skye had gone from not knowing a single thing about her past to finally meeting her father, learning about her mother’s death and now knowing she was not truly human. All that while trying to beat HYDRA to a secret hidden city built underground by aliens and making sure said city didn’t fall into HYDRA’s hands. The next thing Skye knew, she was in Costa Rica and Raina was talking her to meet her father, Carl Zabo. Carl proceeded to tell her of her past then revealing she was an Inhuman who had the potential to possess great power. Then she met Daniel Whitehall who later revealed he had been the one to kill her mother and that he couldn’t wait to see what she would become.

Skye was then taken by Whitehall and Carl to a chamber where the Obelisk, the Diviner as her father had called it, and was about to be put through the transformation along with Raina when by a sheer luck of fate, the team arrived and stopped it. During the resulting battle Diviner was broken, causing the crystals inside to scatter and turn a number of HYDRA soldiers to stone. During the chaos, Carl pleaded with her to come with him so they could find another way to unlock her powers but Skye refused, fearing this obsessive motivation and stating that her team was her family. Suddenly a bomb went off and everything started to crumble. Everyone headed back to the opening. They managed to escape but Whitehall managed to slip away as did Raina. Carl was also gone as well.

Since the events of Costa Rica, Skye had wondered more than once of she had been better off not knowing a thing about her past. All she ever wanted to know the truth of her past and now that she knew it, it scared her.

“Daisy?”
Skye jumped when she felt the hand on her shoulder. Looking up, she saw Fitz’s concerned face looking down at her.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to fr-frighten you.”

“It’s fine,” she answered with a small smile.

Fitz motioned to the empty seat. “Can I…?”

“Sure. I can use the company.”

“Thanks, Daisy,” Fitz said as he sat down.

“Please, Fritz, its Skye. I may now know what my birth name but I don’t need everyone to call me by it if I don’t want them to.”

Fitz nodded, understanding. He had been a constant source of understanding for her since Costa Rica. He was always there to lend an ear of a shoulder. Most of the others had been sympathetic and understanding of her situation but Fitz had gone out of his way to comfort her when she needed it. Skye also thought part of it was Fitz trying to make up for Simmons’ near reaction of revulsion when Skye revealed her Inhuman DNA.

“Coulson called in. He sa-said that they would be landing soon.”

“Did he say why he went to London?”

“No. All he said was that it was…was important.”

It made Skye happy to see the progress Fitz had made in the last couple of months. His thinking was still a little bit jumbled but his stammering had gone down and was having an easier time forming sentences. His motor-skills had also improved which was in part to the time playing video games with Mack. If she had to, Skye would credit a lot of Fitz’s improvements to the mechanic/former double agent.

Poor Fitz had been beyond devastated to learn Mack had been a spy sent in by a rival S.H.I.E.L.E.D. faction. He cried for just about three days straight till he was all cried out. Skye was certain Fitz would never have anything to do with Mack again but he, like the others started to allow the ice to thaw between them and the two ex-double agents.

“D-Do you think it has to do with Ward?”

Skye shrugged her shoulders but didn’t respond to the engineer’s question.

The ramp lowered and a moment later, Coulson made way down. Catching sight of Skye standing there with Fitz, the Director gave her a small smile and looked back to the Quinjet. A slightly bewildered looking Elliot Randolph made his way down the ramp followed by Trip.

---)AOS(---

A short time later, Skye was sitting across from Randolph in the Director’s office. Coulson sat perched on the edge of his desk while May stood beside the chair Randolph was in.
“My, my, my,” Randolph exclaimed as he gently picked up the crystal. “It’s been a while since I’ve seen one of these."

“So you know what it is?” Coulson asked.

The Asgardian held the crystal between his index fingers and nodded. “I do indeed. This is a very rare Terrigen Crystal. May I ask where you found it?”

Coulson didn’t answer. Instead he gave Skye a sideways glace and nodded.

“Professor, have you ever heard of the term Inhuman?” Skye addressed the Asgardian.

The crystal fumbled slight between Randolph’s fingers upon hearing the term but he managed to not drop it. “Now that’s a name I haven’t heard in a really long time,” he said looking at Skye, his eyes narrowing slightly but filled with curiosity. “May I ask how you came to know that word?”

“I am one.”

Randolph nearly dropped the Terrigen Crystal upon hearing Skye’s declaration. For a moment he looked at Skye with a mixed expression of shock and great interest. “That’s certainly…interesting,” he said as he placed the crystal on Coulson’s desk. “I take this is something you recently found out?”

Sky nodded and went on to tell him everything her father had told her. Randolph sat in silence, lightly tapping his hands against his chin.

“So I can assume that you didn’t just bring me here to hear Miss Johnson’s story simple because I’m the only other non-human you known,” Randolph surmised a moment after Skye had finished.

“What can you tell us about the Kree?” Coulson asked crossing his arms, not revealing he has previous experience to the Kree.

Taking a deep breath, Randolph leaned back and crossed his legs. “The Kree are one of the oldest civilizations in the galaxy. They’re a militaristic society and are constantly going to war with other civilizations. Part of it is to expand their empire and the other part is that they live for battle. They see others as inferior and will wage war with a people for centuries until they achieve victory, not caring about other species that might get in their way. Afterwards they’re not against enslaving the defeated population and forcing them to serve them and their military goals. Two important things to note are that a Kree soldier will fight until he has achieved his orders and is willing to fight to the death rather than surrender.”

“Skye’s father said the Kree came to Earth thousands of years ago and created the Inhumans.” May said. “Was that part of their military plans?”

Randolph tilted his head to the side. “As you can imagine, waging war for hundreds of years on end can put a strain on your number of soldiers. So to supplement, the Kree would adduct groups of individuals from worlds and experiment on them to create living weapons they could unleash on their enemies. That need is what brought them to Earth and the eventual creation of the Inhumans. From what I understand, The Kree was successful in the endeavor but found they had accelerated the intelligence of a number of subjects. One in particular was able to lead a massive revolt against the Kree who decided to erase all traces of their experiment.”

“You mean genocide?” Skye choked.

“Yes,” Randolph answered. “Every last Inhuman had to eliminate and once they thought they had carried that out, they left, leaving behind a great number of Terrigen Crystals and several Diviners.”

“But some had to survive.”

“You are correct.”

“Taking the leftover crystals with them,” Coulson added.

“It would appear so and no doubt forming their own hidden societies within your own,” the Asgardian concluded. “That’s shown by this Raina stating how her grandmother told her stories about being special and how your Daniel Whitehall knew the truth behind the stories of visitors from the sky. Inhumans have being living along humans for ages and as evident by your Miss Skye, here, have been having children with them.”

No one spoke for the couple of minutes. Randolph had given them a lot of information to process. Colson was wounding if Fury ever knew of the existence of the Inhumans to begin with. After all, he had been there all this decades ago when the Kree came to Earth. May silently wondering if S.H.I.E.L.D. had ever encountered Inhumans before but never knew it and just wrote them off as being a gifted who gained their abilities through what they would considered normal circumstances. Skye meanwhile was tying everything her father told her with Randolph’s history account. Did her father really want her to embrace her heritage or did he have designs on turning her into his own living weapon?
Finally, Skye went over and picked up the crystal. “My father didn’t really explain how the transformation works. Do you know how it works?” she asked Randolph.
“I’ve never seen it done on humans but I can only assume it’s the same as for other species subjected to it,” Randolph said as he got up and took the crystal from her. “The crystal releases a mist that will bring about the transformation by encasing the individual in a stone-like cocoon wherein your DNA is rapidly mutated in an accelerated process called Terrigensis. Once completed you emerge like a butterfly, completely changed and endowed with unique powers that the mist unlocks.”

May cleared her throat. “Touching the Diviner caused others to turn to stone and die. Why is it different for Skye?”

“Without Inhuman genes, a person cannot survive the Terrigenesis process. I t’s like being born a witch or wizard in Harry Potter. What? I read,” Randolph replied seeing the stunned look on the three S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. “Both parents are Inhuman and they pass the gene down to their child. Then you have Inhumans like Skye who have one Inhuman and one normal parent. Finally there’s Inhumans whose parents are both normal but either one or both parents have the Inhuman gene that’s been lying dormant in their bloodline until it’s manifested in their child.”

Skye took back the crystal and stared at it. “What ability could I get?”

“Terrigenesis different for each person,” the Randolph informed her. “You could go through the process and come out looking how you do now but with the ability to say, shoot heat beams from your eyes. Yet you could come out with purple scaly skin, a horn on your forehead and finger nails that grow at your command. There’s no way of know beforehand how the transformation would affect you. And most important of all, once you go through the transformation, its effects cannot be undone. In the end, it’s ultimately up to and you alone to make the choice to go through with the transformation.”

Skye nods in understanding. Looking up, she can see the sympathy in Randolph’s eyes as he looks at her with a sad smile. Excusing herself, she set the crystal on Coulson’s desk and heads to her room to be alone with her thoughts. Some many things swirled in her mind as she somberly made her way down the hall. Where once she had no answers to her past the young agent now had more answers then she could have ever expected. But now she had even bigger questions to answer.

Did she want to go through Terrigenesis? Would see be able to control whatever powers it would bring her? Was she willing to cope with whatever irreversible physical changes it would bring about? Would her transformation and new abilities cause her teammates to turn away from her because they now saw her as a threat? Was not choosing to go through with the transformation an insult to her heritage?

By the time she reached her room, Skye was so overwhelmed it felt like she was losing her mind.

---)AOS(---

“I like to welcome all of you to our biannual meeting,” the hologram of Doctor List addressed the small group gathered around the table. “To begin I would like to express my thanks to you in regards to this change of meeting by hologram. Matters require I stay in Sokovia for the time being and therefore not able to travel.”

The holograms of the Baroness, Banker and Sheikh all nodded in comprehension as did Daniel Whitehall who was the only actually person in the room.

“Next,” List went on, “I’m sure you all join me in welcoming back our colleague, Daniel Whitehall who has made a successful recover.”

Whitehall politely smiled at the small applause that followed List’s words and held up his hand in acknowledgement.

“So now let us begin,” List said, opening the leather bound folder before him emblazed with the HYDRA symbol.

One by one each member detailed the state of their division. As the meeting progressed the HYDRA leaders shared pleased looks with one another. Of course, only List and Whitehall knew that that group gathered was also part of the Janus Protocol. The Baroness along with the Bloom, Shriek and Banker were unaware that while they led large branches of HYDRA, that they too were nothing more than decoys to draw the Avengers’ attention if need be.

Halfway through the meeting, Bakshi entered and whispered something into Whitehall’s ear. Whitehall smiled and nodded to his second in command who then left the room.
“Very good,” List said after Bloom had finished his report. “Baron von Strucker is pleased with the progress you and your branches have made in the past months. HYDRA is on firm ground. Our sources of revenue are sound and many of our most important projects are proceeding on schedule. Thanks to the Janus Protocol, we’ve been able to keep many including the Avengers off our trail. If there’s no other business…I believe that concludes the meeting. Hail HYDRA.”

“Hail HYDRA,” the others stated before their holograms disappeared, leaving only List and Whitehall.

“And how goes your other project,” List asked folding his hands on the table.

Whitehall smiled as he leaned back in his chair. “Actually I have good news. Bakshi informed me that our Mister Ward has regained conciseness. We can now move onto the next step.”

“And you’re certain he’s the best candidate? Garrett, while dedicated to HYDRA’s cause, was a rogue. It’s not that farfetched that he passed on that trait to your young Herr Ward.”

“True but Garrett molded him into the perfect obedient soldier,” Whitehall replied, waving off List’s concerns. “That combined with the procedure will bend him to our will. Besides, he has no other options. His own brother tried to kill him. He turned his back on his former teammates and Coulson would shoot him on sight. Besides, it won’t be as if he’s given a choice in the matter anyway.”

For a moment, List didn’t reply. His hologram just sat there, tapping his fingers on the surface of the table. “Very well then. You can proceed to the next step.”

“Excellent,” Whitehall said, his voice filled with delight.

---Bonus Scene---

Baron Strucker stood at the balustrade, hands folded behind his back and watched as technicians below worked on the new Chitauri enhanced body armor and weapons. Progress had been going smoothly as was work with the Scepter powered force field for the facility. The twins were still being tested and eventually they too would be ready to serve HYDRA’s will.

“Herr Strucker,” a voice came from behind the HYDRA leader.

“Doctor,” the Baron replied as he kept his gaze on the work being carried out. “I take it the meeting was without incident?”

List came up and stood beside Strucker at the balcony. “No. All factions report good progress with little interference from authorities or the Avengers.”

“Good.”

“Herr Whitehall also reported that he’s ready to move onto the next part of the project you personally assigned him.”

Strucker smiled. “This is highly good news. Once he’s finished, he can eliminate Coulson and S.H.I.E.L.D. just as we will eradicate the Avengers with Project T.E.S.S. You told him he could proceed then?”

“I did.”

“Well then,” Strucker began as he turned to face List, “assemble a team to send to the Siberian facility to get it ready.

Chapter Text

Darkness.

That’s all there was. Utter darkness. He had to be dead. That’s all there was to it.

Grant Douglas Ward was dead.

He had to be. There was no way he had gone to Heaven. Not after everything he had done. Not for everything he had done for Garrett. He wasn’t worthy of eternal peace. No. For his evil deeds, the lying, manipulations, killings and betrayals, he had earn a place in Hell. Subjected to a specific eternal agony in one of the Nine Levels of Hell. A fate he had rightly earned.

Which of the nine levels of the inferno had he earned a place in?

Not in the First Level of Limbo where the lost wondered. He hadn’t been overrun by lust so he wasn’t in the Second Level. Ward hadn’t been a Glutton so that ruled out the Third Level. Greed hadn’t driven him which meant the Fourth Level wasn’t an option. The same was also true for Anger and being confined to the Fifth Level.
So if he wasn’t in one of the upper levels then where was Ward worthy to be placed?
He was worthy of a place in the Sixth level for heresy since he had chosen to follow Garrett and not Coulson. The same could be said for the Seventh level because of the violence he caused. He had been an utter fraud to his teammates so the Eight Level would be appropriate.

No.

His sin had been the sin of treachery. After all he had been Garrett’s mole. Yes. That was the answer. It was the Ninth Level of Hell for him. There was no doubt of that.

Or was it.

All that Ward was aware of was darkness. Maybe his sins were so great that none of the levels were sufficient. Perhaps he had warranted his own special torture. Forced to view all his past deeds in an endless loop? Experience what could have been, what he could have had while knowing it was all false? Have every person he had betrayed come up to him and ask him to explain why he done it? Or maybe this was his fate. To be all alone with nothing but his memories to keep him company for the rest of eternity.

A memory suddenly flashed across Ward’s mind.

“All Dogs Go To Heaven. I love this movie. I mean who doesn’t love Burt Reynolds as a talking dog?”

“It’s wrong.

What is?”

The title. Dogs don’t go to heaven. They’re just animals. Only people go to heaven. Good people.”

“Oh come on Robot. How can you believe that?”

“It’s the truth.”

“Well you can’t always believe the truth. Wasn’t there a time when the truth stated that Norse Gods didn’t exist? Or that we couldn’t confirm the existence of aliens? ”

“Do you really believe it?”

“What?”

“About dogs. Do you really think they go to heaven?”

“Of course. Good dogs go to heaven no matter what.”

“Fine I’ll watch it.”

It had been movie night and Skye’s turn to pick. Ward had played his part as he always did. Put up the front of a no-nonsense straight lace by the book agent who didn’t believe in such nonsense. In the end, he did sit down and watch the movie with the rest of the team. He did allow himself to smile and chuckle as they shared bowls of popcorn among each other as they watched the heart moving film. It wasn’t till later when he was alone in his bunk on the Bus that Ward felt like his stomach was all tied in knots. It only took a moment before he realized what the cause of the feeling was. He had enjoyed the comradery with the team. There had been no act. Ward was starting to care for the very people he was ordered to betrayal.

Things only got worse from there until the day when the message for HYDRA to come into the light was sent.

Ward accepted his fate. He was dead and he was to spend the rest of time alone with his thoughts.

His thoughts and a faint beeping sound.

Steadily the beeping became louder. Then off in the distance was a small speck of light. At first it was dim but slowly started to get larger and brighter breaking through the darkness. As the darkness gave way, Ward became aware of the soft sound of movement.

Ward’s eyes started to flutter and it wasn’t too long before they opened. Nothing was in focus and it was like he was looking into a dense fog. He could just make out the dark blurry forms of individuals and their incoherent voices. Ward soon became aware that he was lying in a bed, head resting on a pillow and a sheet covering him. He tried to raise an arm the limb felt like it was made of lead. Tilting his head to the side, Ward could just barely make out the I.V. stand and hart monitor before he had to close his eyes.

He wasn’t dead after all. He was alive.

But that realization just led to other questions.

Opening his eyes again, Ward found his vision still heavily blurry. Then he became aware that there was a person standing beside the bed.

“Welcome back to the land of the living,” the shadowy figure said in a male voice.

“Wha-” was all Ward was able to murmur.

The figure reached over to the I.V. “Though I am afraid we cannot allow you to regain full consciousness at this point.
Ward felt his eyelids grown heavy and close as he fell back into the dark abyss.

When Ward awoke next, he was still in bed but was now all alone. At first, things were still fuzzy but his vision started to come into focus. After a few blinks, everything was clear and Ward took in his surroundings and started to evaluate his current situation.

The first thing he noticed was that he was in a decent size room that had a window to the right of the bed. Sunlight came through the window and filled the room which was a contrast to the florescent lighting of his cell. The walls were painted a mute peach and were devoid of decoration with the sole exception of a flat screen TV mounted on the wall facing him. An antiseptic scent lingered in the air which along with the crisp white bedding caused Ward to conclude that he was in some type of hospital.

Next, Ward turned his attention to himself. He was shirtless with heavy bandages covering his abdomen. He could feel a dull ache that seemed to radiate from his very bones which several felt like were broken. His body also felt like it was completely covered in bruises. Those that he could see were varied from dark blue and black to light purple. His left forearm was bandaged while his right arm sported several bruises. With his free hand, Ward touched his face and felt the swelling on the left side of his face as well as the gaze wrapping around his head. Ward tried to move his legs but they felt like heavy logs. A light pain lingered in the back of his head.

He was still attached to the heart monitor and the I.V. which sported two separate pouched of clear liquid. Ward figured one of the liquids had to be a strong medication since the pain was somewhat bearable. Sadly, he knew all too well of what it was like to go through the healing process without anything for the pain.

‘Pain makes you stronger. Embrace it,’ John had instructed like Darth Sidious.“The best of the best have no time to wallow in agony. They use it to their advantage and power through until they’ve completed their mission.’

Ward closed his eyes and quickly banished John from his mind. He didn’t want to hear the man’s voice. A moment passed before he finally opened his eyes again. Left with the beeping of the heart monitor as the only sound in the room, the former HYDRA double agent let out an empty sigh.

"Now all I need to figure out is who did all this," Grant said leaning back against the pillow. "Who would want to waste their time trying to save me?”

It was a puzzle. Christian would only go through all the effort to keep him alive just so he could kill him himself. Heck, his brother had assured him of that right to his face. There was no way in hell it was Coulson. The man would sooner shoot him point blank in the head then look at him. The same was true for Skye and the others. No. The only people who would even attempt to keep him alive were those like Talbot; tracking down HYDRA groups and saw him as a source of intel.

Yet Talbot wouldn’t put him in a room like this. Talbot would have him in a cold grey windowless environment made of concrete and bars. Talbot, like Christian would have also made sure he was restrained and kept as immobile as possible. Looking down, Ward saw that there was no type of restraints of any kind attached to the bed.
Whoever had done all of this had gone through a lot to make him feel as comfortable as possible and that the setting made his feel at ease.

“But who would save me?” Grant muttered aloud.

The door to the room suddenly opened and a man entered. He wore a dark blue suite and glasses. In his hand was a folder which Ward quickly recognized as his old S.H.I.E.L.D. dossier and a medium sized wooden box.

“Good afternoon, Grant,” Daniel Whitehall said with a smile that made Ward’s blood go cold.